Science Standards for Georgia's Next Generation

Updates: What's Happening With Georgia's Science Standards?


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  • 30 Apr 2015 3:50 PM | Jeremy Peacock (Administrator)
     

    Hello GSTA Members,

    Dr. Juan-Carlos Aguilar, GaDOE Science Program Manager, provided a tentative timeline for the standards revision process at Monday's Georgia Science Supervisors Association meeting. Here is how the process will flow, starting with the ongoing teacher survey.

    • Current-June 15th, 2015
      • Feedback Survey Open to Teachers
    • Summer 2015
      • UGA Prepares Survey Report for State BOE
      • DOE Organizes Revision Committees, which will include teachers, science supervisors, representative from colleges of education, business and industry representatives, and the chairs of the House and Senate Education committees.
    • Fall 2015 (To Be Complete by December or Early January)
      • Committees Complete Revision Process
    • Winter 2016 (Beginning As Early As January) 
      • DOE Presents Revised Standards to State Board of Education for Initial Approval
      • Standards Go Out for Public Review
      • Final Adoption by State BOE
    • Spring/Summer 2016
      • Curriculum Materials Review & Adoption
    • 2016-2017 School Year
      • Field Testing
      • Assessment Development & Revision
      • Professional Learning
    • 2017-2018 School Year 
      • Full Implementation of Revised Standards

    As GSTA has said repeatedly, teachers' voices are very important in this process, beginning with the survey.  Unless science teachers speak up in large numbers about the need for significant changes in our standards, then we are likely to see only minor adjustments.  Minor tweaks in wording will not serve the students in science classrooms across Georgia.  We need standards that integrate the three dimensions of science learning as the foundation for our curriculum, instruction, and assessments.  If you have not already done so, then please visit GSTA's standards site (

     
    http://bit.ly/GeorgiaNextGenScience) to learn more before completing your survey.

    Thank you,

    Jeremy


    ---

    Jeremy Peacock, Ed.D.

    GSTA President

  • 16 Apr 2015 2:59 PM | Jeremy Peacock (Administrator)

    The Georgia Science Teachers Association is a non-profit membership association representing more than 1,300 science educators from around the state who serve students in a variety of schools, levels, and contexts. As the premier organization in the state for sharing best practices and supporting science educators, our mission is to support excellent science education for all students in the state of Georgia.  Science education is becoming increasingly important to our state as our economy relies more and more heavily on careers in science and technical fields while our high schools are not producing enough graduates who are prepared to pursue these college and career opportunities.  According to a recent report by the American Society of Training and Development, 60% of new jobs being created require skills that only 20% of the population has mastered.

     

    A successful science education system depends on many people—teachers, administrators, students, parents, and community members—and many supporting structures—curriculum standards, instructional practices, assessment approaches, and other policies.  Georgia’s curriculum standards set the foundation upon which teachers, students, schools, and communities work to build an education that will prepare students to be responsible and productive citizens of our state after high school graduation.  Historically, Georgia has taken the responsibility of adopting science curriculum standards very seriously, and our students have benefited.  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., the Benchmarks for Science Literacy from the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Science Education Standards from the National Research Council), yet they relied on the expertise and practical wisdom of Georgia’s science education leaders and classroom teachers to draft and revise the standards.  Beyond the educators and community members directly involved in that process, the state also held public input sessions.  The result of that intensive process was a set of science standards that shifted our focus from endless lists of science trivia toward key concepts that would underpin both science literacy for the general public and advanced study for future scientists and engineers.  The GPS also introduced a clear focus on the nature and processes of science through the Characteristics of Science standards, which were included in the GPS as co-requisites with the content standards.  The GPS raised the level of rigor for all students and resulted in students having much more meaningful experiences than the ones many of you may have had as science students.  The development and adoption of the science GPS under the leadership of our Georgia Department of Education was a success, and I have no doubt that those standards provide a better foundation for our students than the previous QCC did. 

     

    With that said, the science GPS are now showing their age.  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.  This issue is complicated by the fact that the Characteristics of Science, while intended to be taught and assessed in concert with the content, 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.  Improvements to our curriculum standards and continued improvements to our assessment system could help address this issue.  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 intervening 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. 

     

    Thus, the Georgia Science Teachers Association strongly believes the time has come for Georgia’s science teachers, business leaders, and community members to revisit our science standards with an eye toward moving those standards forward with a vision for science education that best serves our students and our state.  With that in mind, we applaud Superintendent Woods and the Department of Education for the efforts they have already put in motion.  Beginning with a survey of all Georgia science teachers to gather meaningful feedback on the current science GPS, the Superintendent has a plan in place to bring our science standards into the 21st Century.  Our understanding is that the teacher survey will be followed by a revision process that will include classroom teachers, higher education faculty, business partners, and community members.  We strongly support these efforts to provide Georgians with a voice in this process.  Along with the expertise that exists within our borders, we also applaud the Superintendent’s willingness to look outside of Georgia for successful models and resources.  One resource that should play a key role in this process is the National Research Council’s report, A Framework for K-12 Science Education.  This document represents a synthesis of research in science and science education, and it 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 it 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.

    • Three-Dimensional Learning: The Framework defines three specific dimensions of science learning and calls for these dimensions to 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 of the three dimensions, the Framework presents developmental learning progressions 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.

    The Framework represents the state of the art in science education, and GSTA believes it should provide the foundation for Georgia’s updated science curriculum standards.  Beyond the Framework, itself, Georgia also has access to a model set of standards that were developed based on the guidance of the Framework and with significant input from Georgia educators and citizens.  Georgia served as one of 26 lead states in the collaborative, state-led process to develop the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).  Georgia was well represented as the NGSS progressed through six drafts between fall 2011 and spring 2013.   Georgia was represented on the NGSS writing team; more than 100 Georgia science educators and higher education faculty served on Georgia’s NGSS Review Committee, Georgia universities served as critical stakeholders, an additional 51 representatives from industry and education partners served on a support group, thousands of Georgians viewed the public drafts in May 2012 and January 2013, and Georgians submitted nearly 400 responses to feedback surveys  on those public drafts.  This process resulted in a set of standards that put the vision of the Framework into action and that may be adopted or adapted at our state’s discretion with no incentive or restriction from the federal government nor any other entity.

     

    Even though Georgia played a key role in the development of the NGSS, the DOE’s proposed revision process offers even greater opportunities for input from Georgia’s classroom teachers, science education leaders, and community members.  We have the opportunity to learn from states who have already moved ahead with the NGSS or other Framework-aligned standards, and we have the chance to think carefully about how to best apply the research-based approach of the Framework to the reality of Georgia’s thousands of classrooms.  We should take advantage of these opportunities, but we should not scrap the excellent work already done here in Georgia and in states across the nation.  It is our desire that every child in Georgia will receive a high quality science education that will prepare them for life and work in the 21st century.  In order for that to occur, our students need a set of challenging science standards that will provide them with the knowledge and skills needed for success.  We support Superintendent Woods and the Georgia Department of Education as they move forward to evaluate and revise our science standards, and we urge the Department to ensure that the knowledge base represented in the Framework and the existing work of Georgia teachers represented in the NGSS are both reflected in that revision process.  Further, we urge our State Board of Education, our elected officials, and the citizens of Georgia to support this effort to set a foundation that will prepare all students in Georgia to take advantage of the growing opportunities in STEM fields.

  • 16 Apr 2015 10:02 AM | Jeremy Peacock (Administrator)

    It's time to speak up!  Your chance to give feedback on our current science standards is here, as the GaDOE survey for science teachers is now open.  See below for GaDOE's official announcement.


    MEMORANDUM

    TO:                Superintendents

                            Curriculum Directors

                            RESA Directors

    FROM:          Martha R. Reichrath, Ph.D.

                            Deputy State Superintendent

                            Office of Curriculum and Instruction                                    

    SUBJECT:    Evaluation of Science and Social Studies Georgia Performance Standards 

    DATE:           April 16, 2015

    The State Board of Education is asking for your help in evaluating the Georgia Performance Standards (GPS) in both Science and Social Studies.  The Regional Educational Service Agencies (RESAs) are assisting in this effort.

    We realize teachers understand the practical content and delivery of GPS. With that in mind, we are asking for your assistance in communicating this survey opportunity to your Science and Social Studies teachers. Teachers will be able to review and provide recommendations for each Science and Social Studies GPS. 

    Teachers will be able to participate in the survey beginning on Thursday, April 16 through Monday, June 15, 2015.

    Survey links are provided below.

    Science:   http://j.mp/2015_Science

    Thank you for your attention to this critical survey opportunity. If you need additional information, please contact Juan-Carlos Aguilar at jaguilar@doe.k12.ga.us, Science Program Manager.

  • 16 Apr 2015 10:01 AM | Jeremy Peacock (Administrator)
    A group of GSTA leaders visited Atlanta February 18th to meet with Superintendent Richard Woods and his staff and to visit with key legislators in the Capitol.  Overall, it was a very positive experience.  Jeremy Spencer (Associate Superintendent of Virtual Learning and former science teacher), Matt Jones (Chief Officer of Academics), and Cindy Morley (Chief Officer of Governmental Affairs ) joined the meeting from the Superintendent’s office.  Our approach was to ask Mr. Woods how GSTA could support and get our members involved in the process of reviewing and revising the science standards.  We also took several opportunities to advocate for use of the Framework and NGSS as models during the process.  Here are the main takeaways from the meeting. 
    • Jeremy Spencer will play a key role in the revision process, based on his experience as a science teacher. Spencer voiced support for the Framework and learning progressions, which we saw as a very positive sign. He also mentioned that his main concern with the NGSS, themselves, is that they might be too “busy” and confusing for teachers. This is an issue that could be addressed during the revision process.
    • Mr. Woods described a tiered system for revision teams with a core leadership group combined with “outer rings” that would carry out the actual revision process. This aligns to the model Dr. Juan-Carlos, GaDOE's science program manager, has shared in the past. Mr. Woods asked GSTA to work with Dr. Aguilar to recommend GSTA members to serve as advisers to this team, and we have already taken action on this opportunity. We recommended five representatives, who are mostly classroom teachers from various levels and areas of the state: Zoe Evan (middle school assistant principal and NGSS Life Science Writing Team member), Brian Butler (high school physics teacher and former U.S. Air Force meteorologist), Denise Webb (elementary science and engineering teacher), Nick Zomer (middle school science teacher), and Trish Dubose (high school science teacher and former GaDOE science implementation specialist). We plan to position GSTA as a resource to GaDOE throughout this process, and we hope to engage our members in the process to the greatest extent possible. We are also working with partner organizations (e.g. RESAs, GYSTC, and GSSA) to engage them in the process and leverage their expertise.
    • Looking at the longer term, Matt Jones discussed his desire to increase the level of professional learning offered in science. GSTA can play a major role in supporting high-quality professional learning for science teachers in our state. As you know, we have an incredible wealth of human resources within the organization. To follow up on this, we have invited the Superintendent, his staff, and Patricia Williams from the Governor's office to our May 9th Science Saturday event to highlight our professional learning activities and the three-dimensional learning approach.
    • See our follow-up letter to Mr. Woods for more information.
    Following our meeting with Supt. Woods, we spoke to several key lawmakers, the lobbyists from PAGE, and a representative from the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. With the lawmakers, our goal was to establish or continue relationships, build awareness for our organization, and establish a basis in the case that we need to contact them in the future. We received a very supportive response from Representative Dudgeon, who spoke at our August joint advocacy meeting.  We hope to work through the Chambers of Commerce to generate support from the business community for our efforts to support science education in our state. We will continue communicating with these policy makers and stakeholders, and we will continue to keep our membership informed of all important developments.
  • 15 Apr 2015 3:53 PM | Jeremy Peacock (Administrator)
    During our February conference, the GSTA board learned that GaDOE is preparing to begin the process of reviewing and revising Georgia's science standards. We welcome this news, and we plan to make every effort to ensure that this process reflects extensive input from our members and that it is grounded in science education research. The first step in the standards revision process will be a survey of all science teachers to gather feedback on our existing standards. You should receive the survey in April of this year, and it will ask for specific feedback on our existing standards and general input on the direction of the revision process. Teachers will be able to give feedback on single or multiple courses, based on their particular background and expertise. In an effort to reach all Georgia science teachers, you may receive the survey notice multiple times. Surveys will be distributed primarily through RESAs and GYSTCs, GaDOE will distribute the survey to their contact list, and GSTA will forward all announcements to our entire contact database. This survey is critical as it will provide guidance for the teams of teachers and other stakeholders that will be convened by GaDOE to revise the standards. 

    GSTA urges you to participate in the survey and, more specifically, to reflect the research-based, three-dimensional approach to science learning. This approach, laid out in A Framework for K-12 Science Education and modeled in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), seeks to engage students in science and engineering practices (e.g., engaging in argument from evidence) while simultaneously learning and applying core ideas (i.e., content standards) and crosscutting concepts (i.e., big ideas like patterns or structure & function). This 3D approach already is being promoted by our GaDOE Science Program Manager within the context of our existing standards, and it aligns to the goals of the new Milestones assessment system. This standards revision process represents an opportunity for GSTA to act on our position statement regarding the Framework and NGSS and, more importantly, an opportunity to improve the depth and quality of science education for all of Georgia's students. In preparation for the survey and revision process, we are running our full position statement below. Please read over this statement, familiarize yourself with the Framework and NGSS, and stay tuned for important updates on this process.

    GSTA's Official Position Statement on the Revision of the Science GPS

    The Georgia Science Teachers Association is an organization that seeks to expand levels of student achievement in Georgia. We are the premier organization in the state for sharing best practices in science education. The association represents science teachers from around the state who teach in a variety of schools and contexts. 

    Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) industries are the drivers of tomorrow’s economy. According to the Department of Commerce, from 2000 to 2010, jobs in STEM fields grew at three times the rate of any other field. Through 2018, jobs in STEM fields are expected to increase by 17 percent, nearly double the projected growth rate of other jobs. Our state’s future economic success, and that of our students, is closely tied to developing a workforce with the talent, creativity, and knowledge to innovate in STEM fields.

    The Georgia Science Teachers Association believes that the time has come for the existing Georgia Performance Standards in science to be reviewed and revised.  For the benefit of Georgia’s students, an assessment of our current standards must be completed as soon as possible. We believe that the review should be informed by the vetted research that serves as the foundation of the Next Generation Science Standards and of the Framework for K-12 Science Education.  Both of these documents are based on internationally benchmarked research on how students learn science content and college and career readiness, and will prove to be an essential, promising part of strengthening K-12 STEM education in Georgia.

    Georgia has the opportunity to take a step towards ensuring that all our students have access to a world-class science education by conducting this review. These internationally benchmarked standards are the work of accomplished, practicing K-16 educators and researchers from 26 states, including Georgia, working together.  The standards were developed through a state-led process in which Georgia served as a lead state. Citizens and educators from within our state provided valuable feedback and leadership in every draft of the standards. There is no federal support of these standards and no federal incentives tied to their review or adoption. Our support is founded in a belief that Georgia’s students deserve the right to a science education that provides them with the knowledge, skills, and education they will need to succeed in school and to support our state’s economy at nationally and globally competitive levels. 

    It is our desire that every child in Georgia will receive a high quality science education that will prepare them for life and work in the 21st century. In order for that to occur, our students need a set of challenging science standards that will provide them with the knowledge and skills needed for success. We strongly encourage Georgia’s elected officials and state leaders to actively support science education for all students by moving forward with this evaluation and review during the 2014-2015 academic year.

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