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 Next Generation Science Standards and of the Framework for K-12 Science Education. Both of these documents are based on internationally benchmarked research into 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.
The Teaching of Evolution
Science is a method of explaining the natural world. It assumes the universe operates according to regularities and that through systematic investigation we can understand these regularities. Because the methodology of science is based on explanations that use empirical data, it cannot use supernatural causation in its explanations. Science has increased our knowledge because of this insistence on the search for data to explain natural processes.
The most important scientific explanations are called “theories.” In ordinary speech, “theory” is often used to mean “guess,” or “hunch,” whereas in scientific terminology, a theory is a set of universal statements that explain the natural world. Theories are powerful tools. Scientists seek to develop theories that are internally consistent and compatible with the evidence, are firmly grounded in and based upon evidence, have been tested against a diverse range of phenomena, possess broad and demonstrable effectiveness in problem-solving, and explain a wide variety of phenomena. The body of scientific knowledge changes as new observations and discoveries are made. Throughout this process, theories are formulated and tested on the basis of evidence, internal consistency, and their explanatory power.
Evolution is a unifying concept for science and in the broadest sense can be defined as the idea that the universe has a history: that change through time has taken place. If we look today at the galaxies, stars, the planet Earth, and the life on Planet Earth, we see that things today are different from what they were in the past: galaxies, stars, planets, and life forms have evolved. Biological evolution refers to the scientific theory that living things share ancestors from which they have diverged: Darwin called it “descent with modification.” There is abundant and consistent evidence from astronomy, physics, biochemistry, geochronology, geology, biology, anthropology and other sciences that evolution has taken place.
The Georgia Science Teachers Association supports the position that evolution is a major unifying concept of science and should be included as part of K-College science curricula and offers the following recommendations:
Adapted from National Science Teachers Position on the Teaching of Evolution
· Science teaching should emphasize evolution in a manner commensurate with its importance as a unifying concept in science and its overall explanatory power.
· Policy makers and administrators should not mandate policies requiring the teaching of creation science or related concepts such as so-called “intelligent design,” “abrupt appearance,” and “arguments against evolution.”
· Science teachers should not advocate any religious view about creation. Teachers should be nonjudgmental about the personal beliefs of students.
· Administrators should provide support to teachers as they design and implement curricula that include evolution. They also should support teachers against pressure to promote nonscientific views or to diminish or eliminate the study of evolution.
· Parental and community involvement in establishing the goals of science education and the curriculum development process should be encouraged. However, the professional responsibility of science teachers and curriculum specialists is to provide students with quality science education not bound by censorship, faulty scholarship, or unconstitutional mandates.
Science is a method of explaining the natural world. It assumes the universe operates according to regularities and that through systematic investigation we can understand these regularities. Whenever these regularities change, it is imperative that scientists investigate the causes of this change.
Climate is defined as the mean and variability of weather over a long period of time. Climate Change is a term often used to describe how the regularities of climate are changing. Climate in this instance refers to global climate.
According to A Framework for K-12 Science Education, by the end grade 12, students should understand the following:
Climate change can occur when certain parts of Earth’s systems are altered. Geological evidence indicates that past climate changes were either sudden changes caused by alterations in the atmosphere; longer term changes (e.g., ice ages) due to variations in solar output, Earth’s orbit, or the orientation of its axis; or even more gradual atmospheric changes due to plants and other organisms that captured carbon dioxide and released oxygen. The time scales of these changes varied from a few to millions of years. Changes in the atmosphere due to human activity have increased carbon dioxide concentrations and thus affect climate. (NRC, 2012, p. 188)
Additionally, A Framework for K-12 Science Education supports including the following in climate science education:
Current models predict that, although future regional climate changes will be complex and varied, average global temperatures will continue to rise. The outcomes predicted by global climate models strongly depend on the amounts of human-generated greenhouse gases added to the atmosphere each year and by the ways in which these gases are absorbed by the ocean and the biosphere. Hence the outcomes depend on human behaviors as well as on natural factors that involve complex feedbacks among Earth’s systems. (NRC, 2012, p. 189)
The Georgia Science Teachers Association supports the position that
The Georgia Science Teachers Association supports following A Framework for K-12 Science Education in regards to climate science and requests that all future Georgia science standards reflect incorporation of the above position.
Reference: National Research Council (NRC). (2012). A framework for K-12 science education. Washington, chair: National Academy Press.
The Georgia Science Teachers Association supports quality teaching and learning which result in high levels of student achievement. An assessment phase is an essential part of any teaching and learning cycle, and student achievement in science should be evidenced by fair and multiple student assessments. The design and selection of these assessments must reflect best teaching practices which ensure that students:
· Understand essential science content.
· Use science processes and skills.
· Think critically and solve problems.
· Design scientific investigations, collect and analyze data, and draw conclusions.
· Articulate relationships between classroom science and real world problems and issues.
Assessment data must be viewed as a reflection of the learning processes and should be used to make adjustments in content, teaching, and/or learning strategies in order to improve student achievement. If linked to student promotion and/or teacher accountability, assessment data must also be used to design the necessary changes to stimulate improvements.
With respect to the use of local, state, and/or national assessments, the Georgia Science Teachers Association advocates the following:
· Assessments must be a part of a well aligned system of science goals, benchmarks, instructional topics, and instructional strategies.
· All appropriate “stakeholders” (teachers, parents, students, administrators, and community members) should be involved in the development of the science program as well as in the selection of appropriate formative and summative assessments.
· Assessments should accurately reflect all levels of learning as defined by Bloom’s Taxonomy (knowledge, comprehension, application, synthesis, analysis, and evaluation), all processes used in science (identification of problems, development of hypotheses, experimental design, collection and analysis of data, drawing conclusions), and the ability to connect science to real world situations.
· Assessments should be administered at identified points in the overall K-12 science program to allow for a variety of instructional plans (subject oriented, integrated, problem-based, etc.).
· Science assessments should receive the same emphasis and should have the same role in accountability in the overall assessment program as other academic disciplines.
· Many aspects of student achievement in science are best measured by performance based assessments rather than traditional, multiple choice, paper and pencil tests.
· Reports of assessment data should reflect the level of student accomplishment on a performance continuum to encourage exceeding basic standards.
The Georgia Science Teachers Association supports science instruction that will enable all K-12 students to achieve scientific literacy and to prepare them for making future career choices. Instruction in science must involve students in hands on investigations based on sound scientific concepts and real world situations of interest and relevance to the students. Appropriate settings, significant time, and sufficient materials must be provided for laboratory experiences that allow development of the skills necessary for the processes of scientific investigations as well as the communication and the conceptualization of scientific phenomena. Since laboratory experiences are of critical importance in the process of developing students’ cognitive and affective understanding of science, the Georgia Science Teachers Association makes the following recommendations:
All science classes, K-12, must include a minimum of 25% of instructional time in inquiry-based laboratory and investigative experiences.
Laboratory experiences must be supported with science targeted funding at the system and building level. This funding should be sufficient for each K-12 student to have hands on experiences. Sufficient amounts of current, operable equipment and materials must be provided to support these hands on experiences. The use of the funds must be flexible enough to allow for immediate purchase and reimbursement as materials are needed throughout the year.
Preschool/elementary science should be taught in a classroom with sufficient workspace to include flat movable desks or tables/chairs, equipment, and hands on materials. Consideration should be made for purchase and storage of materials with convenient accessibility to water and electricity.
Middle school science labs must have sufficient access to water and electricity in a work space with flat topped desks or tables/chairs. Consideration should be made for purchase and storage of materials.
High school science labs must have laboratory stations with water, gas, and electricity to serve all students.
Adequate storage for equipment and supplies including a separate storage area for potentially dangerous materials must be provided. Provisions must be made for the temporary storage and removal of waste.
Computers, software, and other electronic tools should be available for student’s use as an integral part of science activities and laboratory investigations.
Local and state assessment of student performance must reflect the full range of student experience in science, including hands on experience. Performance based assessments of inquiry learning and science process skills must be included in the assessment program.
Science classrooms must be fully provided with all necessary safety equipment. Teachers and students must be trained in laboratory safety procedures.