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GSTA Plays Key Role in Georgia's New Science Standards, New Foundation for STEM

24 Nov 2015 8:17 PM | Jeremy Peacock (Administrator)

GSTA Plays Key Role in Georgia's New Science Standards, New Foundation for STEM

- Dr. Jeremy Peacock, President

Dating back to our February meeting with Superintendent Woods and his top staff members, GSTA has played an active and 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:
  1. Three-dimensional learning based on the science and engineering practices and crosscutting concepts laid out in A Framework for K-12 Science Education,
  2. Incorporation of learning progressions that guide teachers’ expectations for student learning along each of the three dimensions of content, practices, and crosscutting concepts, and
  3. Solid connections to STEM and literacy to support student learning across disciplines and to prepare students for the 21st-Century workplace.
With the committee work on the revisions having wrapped up, I am happy to report 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.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Teachers called for the revision process to draw on A Framework for K-12 Science Education and related standards.
  4. Teachers called for greater clarity in content expectations for their students.
  5. 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 will translate into the following changes, which we can expect to see in the new Georgia Standards of Excellence for Science.
  1. 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.
  2. Given teachers’ preference to integrate characteristics of science and to draw on the Framework, the committees integrated 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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. As this graphic from NSTA shows, the science and engineering practices also integrate well with the standards for mathematical practice and the student capacities that underlie the ELA standards.
I think you will agree that these will all be positive changes for students, but I know you are eager to see the standards for yourself. So, when will you have that chance?  As the timeline here shows, the standards are set to be released for public review and comment in January 2016. We will alert our members as soon as that happens, and we strongly encourage science teachers to participate in the public comment period. GSTA will continue to follow and participate in the revision and implementation process, and we will work hard to support our members through a transition that will ultimately lead to more effective teaching and learning in Georgia’s science classrooms.
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