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Georgia Debuts New Standards for Science and Social Studies

February 21, 2017

When the 2017-18 school year begins, new standards will guide the science and social studies courses in Georgia’s K-12 public schools.

The Georgia Standards of Excellence (GSE) for science and social studies were developed based on public feedback from:

  • Teachers,
  • Community members,
  • Representatives of post-secondary institutions and
  • Business representatives.

Classroom teachers and other committee members used that feedback to make revisions to the previous standards and create the GSE. The State School Superintendent and State Board of Education then approved the new standards.

The standards are not a curriculum. They specify the “what” — what students should know and be able to do at completion of a grade level or high school course. Teachers, schools and local districts have broad flexibility to determine the “how” — how the standards are taught, and what curriculum or methods are used.

Georgia’s Science Standards: Learning from Experience

The new standards for science support our state’s vision of science education that’s based on experiences and active student learning. Students will actively engage in scientific and engineering practices, and develop a progressively deeper understanding of science as they move through their K-12 education.

At each grade level from kindergarten through fifth grade, the standards address:

  • Physical science,
  • Life science and
  • Earth and space science.

The 6-8 standards are divided by scientific discipline:

  • Grade 6
    Earth and Space science
  • Grade 7
    Life science
  • Grade 8
    Physical science

Committee members modified course content when appropriate to bring it up to date with current scientific knowledge. Additionally, a few standards and elements were moved to different grade levels in response to feedback from teachers and other stakeholders. Elements were added to address the engineering design process to provide a stronger connection between science and technology, engineering and math.

Want to dig deeper? View a full copy of the new science standards, or a comparison between the previous and new science standards.

Georgia’s Social Studies Standards: Thinking Like a Historian

The new Georgia Standards of Excellence for social studies promote the use of historical inquiry and primary sources. Overall the changes include a reduction in content, enhancement to the existing standards for financial literacy and clarification where deemed necessary.

The standards vary depending on grade level:

  • Grades 3-5
    American History will be taught as a survey course to allow for more time to cover the standards.
  • Grades 6-7
    Standards reflect that they are a modern world studies course.
  • Grade 8
    Overall reduction in content to give teachers more flexibility and time to integrate primary sources.

High school standards changed as well, including:

  • Reorganization for a more logical teaching flow in American Government and Civics,
  • A reduction in U.S. History content so students have time to delve deeper into each standard,
  • A full redesign of the World Geography course to increase its rigor and relevance and
  • A revision of the World History standards to reflect larger concepts instead of discrete facts.

Learn more: view a full copy of the new social studies standards, or a comparison between the previous and new social studies standards.

Preparing for the New Standards

To make sure teachers are ready to deliver the new standards, they can attend a series of training and professional learning activities. These activities began in 2016 and will continue as implementation begins in fall 2017.

The Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) science team has trained a group of Science Ambassadors — science educators who will spread throughout the state to provide professional learning on the new standards. Science teachers will also have access to statewide professional development institutes in the summers of 2017 and 2018, and video trainings that can be accessed at any time.

The social studies team has also developed a robust mix of face-to-face and virtual professional learning activities for teachers. Activities include two-day trainings for leaders, summer teacher trainings, video trainings, monthly webinars and online resources for every grade level and course.

When students return to the classroom in the fall of 2017, they’ll dig into fun, relevant learning experiences in science and social studies — experiences that will prepare them for any future path they may choose.

About the Author

Dr. Caitlin McMunn Dooley is the Deputy Superintendent for Teaching and Learning at the Georgia Department of Education. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Virginia and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas. She has served as a professor at Georgia State University, an elementary classroom teacher and an educational researcher. Dr. Dooley has published extensively on literacy instruction, children’s learning, learning technologies and education policy.