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 developmentsLegislative Session
Friday, March 13th marked the 30th day “crossover” deadline at the Georgia Legislature. If a bill did not gain passage from either the House or Senate by the time the gavel fell late Friday evening, then it is considered “dead” for the year. Although members of either chamber will have opportunities to “attach” their dead language to their colleagues’ bills later in the session, the likelihood of passing a bill that way is remarkably low. Below is a report on education legislation that the GSTA is tracking through the process.
Data Privacy Bills:
HB 144: “Student Online Information Act” - Filed by Representative Craig Gordon (not a member of the Education Committee), the bill has been put on hold by the committee. The bill did not meet the crossover deadline.
HB 414 - Representative Buzz Brockway’s version of the data privacy bill passed House Committee in early March and is now in the Rules Committee awaiting movement to a floor vote. The bill establishes and implement policies and requirements with respect to the collection and disclosure of student data. The bill did not meet the crossover deadline.
SB 157 - Senator Bill Ligon’s version of the data privacy bill is far more severe – although the Senate Education & Youth Committee slated it for consideration, it was removed from the calendar owing to an apparent lack of support. The language could resurface when House bills are taken up in the Senate, so we will continue to monitor. The bill did not meet the crossover deadline.
Education Reform:SB 2: Career Education Dual Enrollment
– SB 2 passed out of the House Education Committee on March 2nd. The bill creates an opportunity for students who have successfully completed 9th and 10th grade to enroll in a post-secondary institution and earn credits towards a degree or certification. The students would also be permitted to count the courses taken at the post-secondary institution towards their high school requirements. Status: SB 2 passed the Senate and the House Education Committee.
SB 132: "Quality Basic Education Act"
– SB 132 passed out of the Senate Education and Youth Committee on March 2nd. The bill is a housekeeping measure designed to allow students to achieve either an associate degree or technical certification in what is defined as “high demand industry.” The authority is given to the Department of Education to determine the courses that can be applied towards high school requirements. SB 132 passed the Senate and now sits in the House awaiting consideration.
SB 133: Opportunity School District
– SB 133 passed the Senate on March 6th. The bill creates what is referred to as an “Opportunity School District,” a program that allows the state government to intervene in failing schools across the state. The program would be administered by the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, and is designed to focused on the lowest performing 20 schools in the state.
SR 287: Constitutional Amendment
: Opportunity School District – SR 287, the companion constitutional amendment resolution to SB 133, would allow the measure to be put to a statewide ballot. The measure would have to pass a statewide referendum before being enacted. Status: SB 133 and SR 287 have both been passed by the Senate, and will be heard for the second time in the House Education Committee on March 23rd.
SB 89: “Digital Classroom Act” - Senator John Albers’ bill passed the Senate in the first week of March. It encourages local boards of education to provide instructional materials and content to be in digital or electronic format. It also encourages local boards of education to provide wireless electronic devices for students to access instructional materials and content. Status: passed the Senate.
HB 243 - Filed by Representative Mark Hamilton, the bill seeks to establish a state run program for education savings accounts. The bill was originally assigned to House Education, but last week it was recommitted to House Ways & Means. This bill did not meet the crossover deadline.
SB 92 - Filed by Senator Hunter Hill, this bill is a Senate version of the House bill filed by Representative Hamilton. This bill did not meet the crossover deadline.
- T.J. Kaplan, GSTA Legislative Consultant, and GSTA Advocacy Committee