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Opinion: It's time to move Georgia’s science standards forward

Dr. Jeremy Peacock is a regional science content specialist with more than 10 years of experience in the high school science classroom.  Before entering the education field, Dr. Peacock worked as a professional environmental scientist and conducted scientific research.  He is president of the Georgia Science Teachers Association, holds a doctorate in science education from the University of Georgia, and was a 2010-11 Georgia High School Science Teacher of the Year.

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.

By Jeremy Peacock

Georgia is sitting on a gold mine of opportunity for its young people but if we are asleep at the switch, that opportunity will be better realized elsewhere.  You have heard the term before… STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.  It’s not a new concept but today its potential is greater than ever.

Just a few years ago, Georgia’s students could do OK with just a high school education.  Not so now.  Times have changed and so has our economy, which relies more heavily on careers in science and technical fields. Yet, our schools are not preparing enough graduates to pursue STEM college and career opportunities.  The result is that Georgia’s STEM companies must hire many of their workers from out of state.  We must take action now to stop that.

We are in transition as we begin a process of upgrading our science standards to make them state of the art and, as a result, better position our future workforce for the 21st century jobs that will be afforded to them.  It is critical Georgians understand what these new standards look like and have an opportunity to comment.

The Georgia Science Teachers Association believes the time has come for our science teachers, business leaders, and community members to revisit our science standards in a process designed to move toward a vision for science education that best serves our students and our state.  Under the current Georgia Performance Standards – adopted between 2004 – 2006 - teachers still struggle to engage students in doing and thinking about science while they focus on learning about science.

Additionally, the national documents upon which the GPS are based date to the mid-1990s.  The science students need to understand, the economy for which students are preparing, and our understanding of student learning in science have all evolved since that time. Georgia’s curriculum standards provide a key foundation for our education system, and our science standards must reflect the current and future needs of our students and state.

The state Department of Education has begun a process to review and revise the science standards. Superintendent Richard Woods has a solid plan in place.  The survey, open now to science teachers, will lead into a revision process that will include classroom teachers, higher education faculty, business partners, and community members.  GSTA strongly supports these efforts and the objective to ensure Georgians have a voice.

We also applaud the superintendent’s willingness to look beyond Georgia for successful models and resources.  One resource that should play a major role is the National Research Council’s report, A Framework for K-12 Science Education. This document synthesizes research in scientific and educational research and presents a vision for science education that will prepare students to critically consume, understand, and act on scientific information.

We are on the right track but we must have all stakeholders at the table and paying attention.  I invite all Georgians to visit the GSTA web site for details.  We will provide the latest information about the new standards and will provide more resources.

Here’s the bottom line:  All students in Georgia should receive a high quality science education that will prepare them to be a part of the 21st century workforce.  Our students need a set of challenging science standards that will provide them with the knowledge and skills needed for success.  We have work to do. Join us.



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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.