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State helping with new school science standards
Flowery Branch High chemistry teacher Katie Shockley works Thursday with student Chase Jones as the class prepares for a test. The Georgia Department of Education has asked for public comment on the final draft of Next Generation Science Standards. Officials said “students continue to lag internationally in science education, making them less competitive for the jobs of the present and future.” - photo by Scott Rogers | The Times

Georgia will look at new set of science standards for its public schools once they are released at the end of March.

Last week, the final draft of Next Generation Science Standards was released for public comment. Georgia, along with 25 other states and the District of Columbia, are leading the development.

The standards are based upon the National Research Council’s Framework for K-12 Science Education, released last July, which, according to NGSS’s website, “rests on a view of science as both a body of knowledge and an evidenced-based, model and theory building enterprise that continually extends refines and revises knowledge.”

Georgia’s science standards currently fall under the Georgia Performance Standards, which aligns to the NRC’s National Science Education Standards, released in 1996.

“We’ll be looking at them a little closer once they come out,” said Matt Cardoza, spokesman for the Georgia Department of Education. “Then we can actually form a Georgia committee to make that decision.

“Once they’re rolled out, if we think our own standards are better, we can go that route, and if we think these standards are better, we can go that route.”

Either way, Cardoza said the state wanted to be on the front end of the development.

“If you’re putting something together at the national level that might end up being the curriculum you have, it’s better to be on the front end of that and help it that rather it happen to you and have no input,” he said.

The standards would try to accomplish for science what Common Core did for English/language arts, reading and math in establishing set benchmarks for the majority of the nation. Georgia adopted Common Core last year.

“Most of the standards in the draft don’t look very different than what we’re currently teaching, so I think for our teachers there will be a level of comfort there,” said Sarah Bell, director of standards and assessment for Gainesville City Schools. “But I think it’s probably a good thing to get some consistency with our science standards in the same way we’re getting that with language arts and math with Common Core.”

Two years ago, Gainesville established a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics team to look at enhancing those subjects locally. That team will meet Monday to look at the standards and the system will provide feedback.

“(NGSS is) trying to do the same thing that Common Core has done with English/language arts, reading and math,” said Jamey Moore, director of curriculum and instruction for Gainesville. “I think it’ll be a lot more about narrowing the focus to the most important things, but it will also be about the pedagogy behind it — the way that they’re taught.”

According to the department of education, a recent U.S. Department of Commerce study showed that for the past 10 years, the growth in STEM jobs was three times greater than non-STEM jobs.

According to the Institute of Education Sciences, 12 international education systems posted higher average science scores than the United States, including China, Korea, Japan, Finland and Canada.

“It’s organizational dynamics 101 — that which gets measure is that which gets done,” said Will Schofield, Hall County Schools superintendent. “Science and social studies have taken a back seat to reading and mathematics for the last 10 years. I think we’ll come to a conclusion in the next decade that some of that wasn’t thought out very well.”

Moore thinks a move away from No Child Left Behind and Adequate Yearly Process will help improve the state’s competitiveness on the international level.

“I think just the transition away from AYP is going to have the greatest impact on that,” Moore said. “With AYP, they were only measuring math, reading and language arts so what gets measured, gets done. Now as science comes on that radar, I think the state has stepped up as well as local districts.”

But standards alone, some school officials said, is not the end all, be all fix.

“Just like anything else, this is not the fix for science,” said Merrianne Dyer, Gainesville superintendent. “The fix for science is what’s done at the district and school level. It’s getting teams of people together and aligning science, particularly from high school down to elementary.”

Schofield said the standards, whichever ones are used, must have a real-life post-schooling application, or improvement will never be seen.

“Until we get curious about linking these standards to real life, authentic tasks with students, we’re not going to see much movement,” he said. “I’d be the first one to say that over the last 25 years, I think we’ve done a very poor job of that in education. That’s what’s on our front burners.”

To view the standards, visit

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