1. Why do we need new science standards in Georgia?
When our current Georgia Performance Standards (GPS) for science were adopted more than a decade ago, they represented a significant improvement over the previous Quality Core Curriculum (QCC). The GPS drew significantly on research-based documents from leading national organizations (i.e., theBenchmarks for Science Literacyfrom the American Association for the Advancement of Science and theNational Science Education Standardsfrom the National Research Council), as well as input from Georgia’s science education leaders, classroom teachers and the general public.
It has been more than 17 years since the National Research Council and the American Association for the Advancement of Science produced the reports on which the GPS were developed. Since then, there have been major advances in science and our understanding of how students learn science. Students need the kind of preparation that gives them the tools and skills necessary to succeed in a rapidly and continuously changing world. 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.
New science standards will address two main issues with our current GPS:
First, given the multiple, competing demands for instructional time in Georgia’s schools, our teachers still struggle to meet the content objectives of the GPS while engaging their students in scientific investigations that develop important critical thinking skills and instill an appreciation for the value of science in understanding our world and solving problems facing our society. In the current GPS, the Characteristics of Science are presented separately within the standards documents. Given this and the focus on fact-oriented multiple-choice testing, teachers are often pressured into sacrificing deep, contextualized learning through investigations in favor of superficial coverage and memorization of content.
Second, those national documents on which our science GPS are based were published in the mid-1990s. The issues we face as a society, the economy for which we are preparing our students, and our understanding of how students best learn science have all changed dramatically in the last 20 years. It is simply not realistic to expect a static set of curriculum standards to meet the needs of a student population that is increasingly dependent upon innovation in science, technology, mathematics, and engineering—the STEM fields.
2. What is the Framework and why is it important?
A Framework for Science Education Success
The National Research Council’s report, A Framework for K-12 Science Education, provides this research-based foundation for a 21st-Century science curriculum. The Framework presents a vision for science education that will prepare students “to engage in public discussions on science-related issues, to be critical consumers of scientific information related to their everyday lives, and to continue to learn about science throughout their lives” (NRC 2012, p. 9). The Framework, as the title implies, presents a broad outline of the science all students should know before completing the 12th grade and does not define specific curriculum standards. It does, however, point to characteristics that science standards should meet in order to support student learning in K-12 classrooms and college and career readiness beyond high school.
A New Vision for Science Education
The Framework lays out a vision for science education in which...
students, over multiple years of school, actively engage in scientific and engineering practices and apply crosscutting concepts to deepen their understanding of the core ideas in these fields. The learning experiences provided for students should engage them with fundamental questions about the world and with how scientists have investigated and found answers to those questions. Throughout grades K-12, students should have the opportunity to carry out scientific investigations and engineering design projects related to the disciplinary core ideas. (NRC 2012, p. 9)
Achieving this vision requires science curriculum standards that meet three overarching criteria.
Three-Dimensional Learning: The Framework defines three specific dimensions of science learning that should be integrated within science curricula, instruction, and assessment. These dimensions describe the structure of scientific thought as it is employed by practicing scientists and as it should be learned by students. The Disciplinary Core Ideas define a narrow set of ideas that help make sense of a particular scientific discipline and provide tools for understanding complex ideas and solving problems; the Crosscutting Concepts define the “big ideas” that apply across all scientific disciplines; and the Science and Engineering Practices describe behaviors that allow scientists to investigate the natural world and engineers to design solutions to important problems. In three-dimensional learning, students simultaneously apply core ideas and crosscutting concepts as they seek to explain real-world phenomena and solve meaningful problems. To facilitate this learning approach, science standards must explicitly integrate these three dimensions.
Learning Progressions: For each component of the three dimensions, the Framework presents developmental learning progressions (e.g., Engaging in Argument from Evidence) that map out a coherent sequence of expectations across grade bands that support students in developing a deep understanding of each dimension. By building on these learning progressions, standards can, for example, help middle school teachers better understand where their students are expected to perform before entering high school. The result is that learning constantly builds on students’ prior experiences.
Connections to STEM and Literacy: The Framework specifically integrates engineering with science in each of the three dimensions, and it calls for integration with mathematics and English language arts standards. The Science and Engineering Practices also provide excellent opportunities to integrate technology in multiple ways, for example within scientific investigations, for gathering and communicating information, or in analyzing data and developing models. Explicit integration of literacy with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics supports student learning and prepares students for the world beyond high school in which they will be expected to wield a variety of skills on interdisciplinary teams.
3. What is three-dimensional learning?
The videos linked below from the Teaching Channel provide an overview of Three Dimensional Learning that integrate Disciplinary Core Ideas, Cross-cutting Concepts, and Science & Engineering Practices. These videos provide examples of performance tasks in which the Three Dimensional Approach is used. These videos were filmed in Georgia in August of 2014. Although the videos refer to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), Georgia is not adopting that set of standards. However, both Georgia's revised standards and the NGSS are built upon A Framework for K-12 Science Education. Thus, the two sets of standards share some key similarities.
4. How are Georgia's revised standards similar to the Next Generation Science Standards?
Although the NGSS and Georgia's revised standards were both influenced by A Framework for K-12 Science Education, Georgia chose not to adopt, in whole or in part, the NGSS. Instead, Georgia educators developed a set of standards that are truly "Georgia-owned and Georgia-grown." Working from the existing Georgia Performance Standards, the revision committees made only those changes that were called for by Georgia's classroom teachers. The result is a rigorous and forward-looking set of standards that represents an improvement over the GPS and that will truly serve the needs of Georgia's students and teachers.
5. How will new science standards affect science education in Georgia?
High-quality science education 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. This will facilitate more student-centered learning that enables students to think on their own, problem solve, communicate, and collaborate—not just memorize facts.
6. Can standards, alone, improve science education in Georgia?
Improved science standards will provide a necessary foundation for improving science education in Georgia, but that work must not end with the publication of a standards document. It will be important that teachers shift their classroom practice towards the integration of science content, cross-cutting concepts, and science & engineering practices through 3-Dimensional Learning. This will require professional learning, collaboration, leadership and support. It will be important for teachers experience this type of learning. Georgia has the expertise to lead this type of professional learning through collaboration among DOE, RESAs, GYSTC, GSTA, Higher Education, Informal Education, Districts, and Teacher Leaders. Business partnerships will be important to the success of the implementation of the standards. Further work will need to be done to align assessments and develop curriculum.
Georgia Science Standards should incorporate the most current research and findings in science, they also include the most current research regarding how students best learn science.
Georgia Science Standards should allow students to think of science learning not as memorization of disconnected facts, but as a holistic understanding of integrated and interrelated concepts. This is one of the biggest shifts in the NGSS compared to previous sets of science standards.
Georgia Science Standards should require students to provide evidence of their learning and should equip students with the critical thinking and analytical skills they need to be successful in college and to compete for today’s most rewarding jobs.
Georgia Science Standards should connect scientific principles to real-world situations, allowing for more engaging and relevant instruction that clearly covers complicated topics.
Georgia Science Standards should support educators to make science accessible and interesting to ALL students by connecting learning over multiple years, across disciplines and grades and by applying crosscutting concepts to deepen students’ understanding of core ideas.
7. What are the next steps in the revision and adoption process, and when will I be expected to teach from the new standards?
Assuming you agree that the changes reflected in the revised standards will all be positive for students, you are likely asking, "What's next?" Teachers will be eager to know when you will be expected to teach from the new standards and the types of support that will be provided. As the timeline at left shows, adoption of the standards is tentatively scheduled t follow the public comment period in the spring. Once the standards are officially adopted, a full year is planned for professional learning, resource development, assessment alignment, and transition. Teachers will be expected to implement the revised standards in the 2017-2018 school year. GaDOE, GSTA, and other organizations will be working tirelessly to help you make a smooth transition.