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.

Jeremy Peacock is president of the Georgia Science Teachers  Association. (Photo/GSTA)

Jeremy Peacock is president of the Georgia Science Teachers Association. (Photo/GSTA)

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.

 

 

Reader Comments 0

12 comments
OnlySoMuch
OnlySoMuch

All students deserve a top notch science experience, and that means a highly qualified, engaged, knowledgable science teacher that WANTS to teach science.  If you have not heard, out of all the content areas, Georgia education programs graduate the fewest high school science disciplines than any other. One reason is that the ed college students are afraid of science, and then the graduates (teachers new and old) are afraid of science. They do not understand or enjoy it. So how can this be remedied? This question has been batted about for years.

1. Differential pay: Teachers are given the mantra of differentiation in the classroom but this is another case altogether when there needs to be differentiation for the teachers. Is it harder or less desirable to teach science content than say, second grade or PE? I contend that it is. So, based on supply and demand, pay the overpopulated content areas less (general elementary ed) and the scarce high needs areas more (MS/HS math and science.) 

2. Recruit second career professionals from science fields to teach science. They already have a deeper knowledge and usually an enjoyment of science. Add to that the real world knowledge of how science and the business/public/research connections are made. Again, these seasoned professionals should not come in on the same salary as a 22 year old kid fresh out of college. Do they need other skills training? Sure. Give them the credit on the step ladder for years of experience to show respect where due since they are already most of the way there to highly qualified- for their years of previous service in their given science field. To do any less is to insult their intelligence, skills, and background.

3. Give all teachers access to the standardized tests after their students have taken them. How are we supposed to learn how to better prepare our students, if we are never permitted to see exam questions and results?

4. Ditch the textbook.They're out of date as soon as they're published. We should be using a curriculum of the most CURRENT resources as advances in science are made all the time. 

5. Promote and pay for science organization membership. From GSTA to NMEA there is an organization for everyone. Send teachers to better professional development than the districts are providing for them. Don't force teachers to be the providers of district PD unless they want to. If they want to improve their knowledge, why wouldn't we want to send them to training? Don't districts employ plenty of curriculum specialists? Why are they calling on teachers to do the training?

These are just a few ways we can move towards higher science standards in Georgia and elsewhere.

RHodgdon
RHodgdon

While I agree that vocational education should never have been stripped from our schools, and that vocational skills require mathematical and sometimes engineering skills, I would dispute that plumbers and carpenters make $50-$75.00 per hour or about $39,000 per year. That may be what the contractor charges a customer, but the average salary for a carpenter in the US is just under $20.00 per hour. Plummers make an average of $23.00 per hour. For comparison, the average annual teacher salary is $55,000. Engineer $99,000. Nurses $66,000. Computer Tech/Network support $44,000. Professional bull rider $30,000. That’s perhaps beside the point. According to The Alliance for Science & Technology Research in America (ASTRA), 71% of new STEM jobs through 2018 will be in computing (software engineering, networking, support, systems analysis, etc.) It may be that a person will need to consider relocating to find one of these jobs, but that isn't the same as saying they don't exist. 

In response to MiltonMan, you are right--it is an incredible challenge to keep our kids focused because they have so many different things today that compete for that attention. And I agree that it's a crying shame that kids can't do something as simple as cutting a board to length, but that isn't really the fault of a teacher. It wasn't our idea to get rid of vocational education in our schools. When I was in 7th grade, I made a table for my mother in shop class-which EVERYONE took. All I would ask is that you consider that the job we have as teachers is enormously complicated today. Unless you actually spend some time walking in our shoes, you could probably never imagine just how much we are asked to do. Yes, there are a lot of ineffective teachers in our schools, but it seems a bit fair to lump everyone in that category and even more unfair to throw a terd bomb at a specific teacher whom you probably know almost nothing about.

Finally, I’m not sure I would agree that “math and science require “real brains,” implying that trade labor does not. I would gladly trade some of my scientific knowledge for knowledge on how to build a tree house for my kids. And now that they have both seen the show “Treehouse Masters,” the simple “platform” I am capable of building would seem woefully inadequate—even to the birds. 

RHodgdon
RHodgdon

@RHodgdon Sorry- shouldn't have read "$50-$75 per hour or about $39,000. The $39,000 is what they would make at the $20 per hour wage. A person making $50 per hour for a 40 hour work week, 52 weeks would make about $104,000. 

GaryHurd
GaryHurd

@RHodgdon,

I have a science doctorate, and ~40 years post doctoral experience. I have held positions in industry, and academia. My grandparents, and parents were general contractors, farmers, and mechanics. They taught me skills I still use today (often with their tools).  I was also able to take "shop" in 7th through 12th grade in 1960s California public schools. So I have a "mixed" perspective on this topic.

I just paid $5,850 to replumb the house. That was 4 crew for four 8 hour days, and 2 crew for 1 day. My job was one of three they had working that week. The master plumber made much more than his youngest laborer.  There were 6 guys who worked for what is really a small local company.  The hourly range was approximately from $18 to $60. I pay my house painter $19/hour plus material. I have a pal who is a plumber who has a single helper. His only takes small jobs, and he told me his pre-tax net is ~$120,000 a year. He has about $200,000 invested in his truck and tools.

When I cost out a job (a skill learned from my mother) I need to cover worker hourly, employer's obligation for insurance, unemployment, Social Security, etc. That is just about the same as the hourly. Adding the two are my direct cost. Depending on the size of the job, I add the "profit" as 10 to 40 percent of the total direct cost. For a short job I bill my time at $150/hour or $500 minimum (the same hourly my lawyer charges which he measures to the nearest 15 minutes). For a longer contract I'll drop it a bit.

A total screw-up with an MBA can crash a bank and still steal millions.

The point here is that there is a wide range of skills, pay, and responsibility. Anything we can do to better prepare our children (or grandchildren) to better prepare them for their future is an obligation we owe them.



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A Get Schooled article not promoting an obvious political agenda. What am I missing here?

Jeremy Peacock
Jeremy Peacock

@Looking4truth You make some good points, and I certainly don't think every STEM job requires a degree.  What those jobs do require is the ability to apply technical knowledge to understand and solve problems.  I would like to see science standards that helps our students move beyond memorizing science trivia to applying scientific knowledge to understand the world and to solve problems.

Looking4truth
Looking4truth

I'm getting a little tired of STEM - it's as if they believe the laws of supply and demand will not apply to them.  If you graduate 150 computer techs for 50 jobs, that will serve to depress wages and make the labor market even more competitive. 


The people who are talking about STEM jobs do not consider that carpentry requires math and geometry.  They do not consider that plumbing requires engineering knowledge.  Yet, neither of these jobs requires a college degree - just some technical education and an apprenticeship.  They make $50-$75 per hour -  more than many computer specialists make. 




GaryHurd
GaryHurd

@Looking4truth,

Carpentry, plumbing, electricians, and mechanics are all important, well paid, and as you have pointed out, use math and science.
 

That cannot detract in any way from Dr. Peacock's emphasis on STEM education. If High Schools do even better at teaching basics of math and engineering your carpenters, plumbers, and all the trades will be better off as well as computer coders. And you might take a closer look at an automobile's computerized controls, and the technology a mechanic needs to master to stay in business. 

MiltonMan
MiltonMan

The schools and teachers like Jeremy have failed our students.  I used to hire high school students so they could earn money during summer and learn something.  I gave up after numerous failed attempts from the students at measuring/cutting to an 1/8th or 1/16th of an inch. 

popacorn
popacorn

@MiltonMan

The ability to focus on anything for more than a microsecond is fading from our culture. 

KBrkich
KBrkich

@MiltonMan While there are certainly teachers and schools that have failed our students, I can guarantee it is not "teachers like Jeremy". Having seen him teach, and teach teachers, I believe he is an excellent model for how science/engineering could and should be taught in our schools from PreK-College. I am very thankful that we in Georgia have him as an advocate for Science Standard reform based in the K-12 Framework. 

popacorn
popacorn

Math and Science require real brains and intelligence. 'Nuff said?