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State Standards

South Carolina Science Academic Achievement Standards
Approved by the State Board of Education November 1996
Barbara Stock Nielsen, Ph.D.
State Superintendent of Education
South Carolina Department of Education
Columbia, South Carolina

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Introduction

Parents, students, teachers, the business community, and the general public need to clearly understand the standards and form a consensus regarding what all students are expected to know and be able to do in science. Toward that end, in October 1995 the first draft of the South Carolina Science Academic Achievement Standards was released for public review. Parents, community members and individuals from school districts, schools, businesses, post-secondary institutions, and the Math/Science Hubs reviewed the standards and wrote responses to the standards. During March, teams of teachers reviewed the responses to the first draft and recommended changes to the academic achievement standards. Their work resulted in the development of a second draft in April 1996 which was distributed for a second broad public review. Responses to the April draft were reviewed and the standards were refined based on the additional public input resulting in the July draft. Over 800 individuals participated in the field reviews.

The resulting July draft was reviewed in August by members of the professional associations and organizations and district science coordinators. In November of 1996, a final version of the South Carolina Academic Achievement Standards was approved by the State Board of Education. These standards will guide the revision of state-administered assessments.

Achievement standards are written for a variety of audiences: students, teachers, school administrators, school-board members, parents, the public, and test writers. Because the standards must be clearly defined, they are written in the language of science. Just as doctors, attorneys, journalists, musicians, craftsmen, and other professionals all have their unique languages, so scientists have a language for communicating with each other. For this reason, some readers of this document may find unfamiliar terms. The standards are written to be as understandable as possible to lay readers while being accurate for test writers. The achievement standards will tell writers in precise language what concepts, understandings, and skills are eligible for testing at each level.

Definition of Standards

Content standards are broad statements of what students are expected to know and be able to do. These standards describe the important concepts that every student is expected to learn in the discipline in multi-year blocks. Content standards may be found in the Science Curriculum Framework.

Academic Achievement standards describe the nature of the evidence a student must provide in order to show attainment of the content standard. Academic achievement standards are more specific than the content standards on which they are based. In this document, they are indicated by bullets.

Format of the Science Academic Achievements Standards Document

The achievement standards are organized by grade level and content area. Four grade level blocks are used:

  • Primary (grades Pre K-3)
  • Elementary (grades 4-6)
  • Middle (grades 7-8)
  • High School (grades 9-12)

The standards for each of these grade level blocks are grouped into four content areas:

  • Area I. Living Things
  • Area II. Earth and Space Systems
  • Area III. Matter and Energy
  • Area IV. Applications

Also identified for each of the grade level blocks are standards for processes that are fundamental for science. The standards for these process skills should be carefully connected to the achievement standards by teachers and test makers as they present and write classroom activities and test items.

Integrated at appropriate places throughout the standards are science vignettes, examples, and illustrations for teachers. These examples and vignettes illustrate some of the best practices in the classroom for the grade block as a whole. They are designed around themes (the strands from the framework: characteristics, interactions, and change) and make connections within and between the science disciplines. (For more information on types of curriculum connections, see Page 94 in the science framework.) The vignettes have been written by the Science Framework Writing Team unless otherwise indicated.

For success, all teachers within every grade in the grade span must provide students with appropriate instruction in science so that students will meet the standards indicated by the end of the grade span. For example, standards for the primary grades apply to kindergarten, first, second, and third grade. It is expected that by the end of Grade 3, all children will meet the standards indicated. For this to happen, teachers in kindergarten, first grade, and second grade will have to provide instruction that will prepare children for further learning in the next grade. All instruction cannot wait until Grade 3. The third grade teacher cannot do it all.

Teachers, college/university professors, and other subject area experts will use the academic achievement standards to establish exit requirements in science. They will determine the specific standards all students must meet by the end of grade 10 which will represent basic graduation requirements. They will also identify those standards which represent achievements students should meet after further science study in Grades 11 and 12.