The Problem: Science Education is Lagging Georgia's STEM Economy
Where is Georgia’s economy heading?
- STEM job growth is expected to outpace general growth by more than 7 percentage points through 2018
- 65% of the “Key Industries” in Georgia have a STEM focus.
- 60% of new jobs being created require skills that only 20% of the population has mastered. These skills are clustered in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
- 76% of all newly created U.S. jobs will require highly-skilled workers with some proficiency in STEM.
What skill do students need to thrive in this economy?
- Jobs in these industries require workers who have:
- Analytical skills to research a topic, develop a project plan, and draw conclusions from research results
- Science skills to break down a complex scientific system into smaller parts, recognize cause-effect relationships, and defend claims using evidence
- Mathematical skills for calculations and measurements
- Attention to detail to follow a standard blueprint, record data accurately, or write instructions
- Technical skills to troubleshoot the source of a problem, repair a machine or debug an operating system, and computer capabilities to stay current on appropriate software and equipment
GA Economic Development: Key Industries
How does STEM literacy affect the average citizen?
- The definition of what it means to be “literate” in science continues to grow and now includes the use of technology, critical thinking, and analytical skills.
- As citizens, we are increasingly asked to make informed decisions on issues ranging from healthcare to energy policy that affect ourselves, our families, and our communities. Having a deep understanding of scientific concepts and the ability to understand and apply this knowledge is essential.
- Our nation’s science teachers are finding that when educators raise expectations and give students the right tools and learning environment, students are capable of remarkable science literacy and achievement.
- High-quality STEM standards allow educators to teach effectively, moving their practice toward how students learn best—in a hands-on, collaborative, and integrated environment rooted in inquiry and discovery.
- A strong science education equips students with skills that are necessary for all careers—within and beyond STEM fields. Students need the right foundation to tackle long-term and difficult issues that face ours and future generations.
- A high-quality, robust science education means students will develop an in-depth understanding of content and will gain knowledge and develop skills—communication, collaboration, inquiry, problem solving, flexibility—that will serve them throughout their educational and professional lives.
The Solution: Update Georgia's Science Standards to Provide a Foundation for 21st-Century STEM Education
Preparing Students for the STEM Economy
Preparing all students for the current and future STEM economy requires a science curriculum that moves beyond a focus on isolated science facts to engage students investigating and explaining the natural world and designing solutions to real-world problems. That curriculum also must draw on the best available research in science and on how students learn science.
Dating back to our February 2015 meeting with Superintendent Woods and his key staff, GSTA has played an active role in the revision process for Georgia’s science standards. Throughout that work, we have advocated for standards that would provide a foundation for enhanced student learning by incorporating three features:
- Three-dimensional learning based on the science and engineering practices and crosscutting concepts laid out in A Framework for K-12 Science Education,
- Incorporation of learning progressions that guide teachers’ expectations for student learning along each of the three dimensions of content, practices, and crosscutting concepts, and
- Solid connections to STEM and literacy to support student learning across disciplines and to prepare students for the 21st-Century workplace.
As you review the revised standards, you will see that we are well on our way toward achieving those goals. So, where are we now and how did we get here?
As the image at right shows, the revision process was carried out by three levels of committees, all of which included GSTA members and leaders, made up of K-12 educators, higher education faculty, business representatives, and other stakeholders. All committee work was driven by the 9,300+ survey responses from Georgia science teachers, as well as input provided on the DOE’s stakeholder survey and by University System of Georgia (USG) content experts who sat on the revision committees. More specifically, revisions were based on the following ideas.
- The revision committees worked from the content standards in the existing Georgia Performance Standards. This is an important note, because it means that teachers will not be faced with wholesale changes to the content they are expected to teach in a particular grade level or course.
- Teachers called for the integration of the Characteristics of Science into the existing content standards. Parallel to that, stakeholders called for science content to be connected to scientific thinking and real-world applications.
- Teachers called for the revision process to draw on A Framework for K-12 Science Education and related standards.
- Teachers called for greater clarity in content expectations for their students.
- USG content experts provided input on the scientific accuracy, timeliness, and importance of concepts within the content standards.
The figure at right illustrates how these inputs translated into the following changes, which you can see in the revised Georgia Standards of Excellence for Science.
- Revision committees made significant efforts to clarify the content expectations within standards. When warranted, the committees also provided clarification statements to guide instruction and student learning. These statements should allow teachers to focus on key concepts rather than surveying broad topics. In particular, efforts were made to provide clearer delineations between related concepts across grade levels.
- Given teachers’ preference to integrate characteristics of science and to draw on the Framework, the committeesintegrated science and engineering practices and crosscutting concepts directly into the content standards. The result will be a set of three-dimensional standards that will require students to apply practices, crosscutting concepts, and core content to explain authentic phenomena and solve real-world problems. The practices were explicitly integrated at the standard and element level, while crosscutting concepts are implicit in many of the revised standards. The DOE science team is making plans to provide a range of documents to support implementation of the revised standards. Among those will be alignment documents for the crosscutting concepts and learning progressions that define expectations for each of the three dimensions across K-12 grade bands.
- The integration of science and engineering practices within the content standards brings a significant shift in the level of rigor in Georgia’s science standards. Holding students accountable to construct arguments, analyze data, and develop solutions—rather than simply describing, demonstrating, or identifying concepts—will raise expectations for all students in Georgia and give them a stronger foundation for college and career pursuits following high school.
- The integration of science and engineering practices also provides an excellent foundation for STEM and literacy integration in the science classroom. The practices specifically include engineering dimensions and mathematical applications for science. In addition, some elements will specifically call for students to engage in the engineering design process as they learn and apply science concepts. Thus, the standards will provide a strong foundation for schools that wish to move toward integrated STEM instruction. At the same time, the practices include scientific communication practices, like asking questions, constructing explanations, and engaging in argument. To further emphasize the important connections between science and literacy, the revision committees used the practice of obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information as an overarching practice for each science standard. The remaining practices are incorporated into elements and will guide students in developing their mastery of each standard. This will focus student and teacher attention on the need to communicate as scientists and strengthen the connection to Georgia’s literacy standards.
Return to Top