Kansas BOE Member: Next Generation Science Standards Development Non-Transparent

The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Ken Willard, a member of the Kansas State Board of Education, said that the development of the Next Generation Science Standards was not transparent enough due to a confidentiality agreement board members were required to sign.

Ken Willard, one of two members on the state board to vote against the Next Generation Science Standards, says the agreement not to divulge details of the standards during much of the development process was problematic.

“I’m opposed to that whole idea,” said Willard, of Hutchinson. “We need to be as transparent as we can.”

Kansas adopted new science standards last month. Called the Next Generation Science Standards, they were written by a consortium of states in collaboration with the nonprofit education organization Achieve Inc.

Kansas was one of 26 states that played a leading role in the process, which took about two years and involved teams of educators, academics and businesspeople from each state discussing and helping to develop and review the standards. Twice during the process, Achieve released drafts for feedback from the general public.

Each state’s team signed a temporary confidentiality agreement, no longer in effect. It says discussions and documents related to the science standards were “confidential and proprietary” and not to be shared outside the teams.

“My question is still, why was the confidentiality agreement necessary for writing public standards?” said Willard, a board member since 2003.

Willard says the agreement left him and other state board members out of the loop because only one board member — then-chairman Dave Dennis — was on the team. Though others received monthly updates on the process, Willard says he wasn’t satisfied because the team didn’t answer his questions about the standards and because he couldn’t see what other public input they were receiving and possibly disregarding.

“My efforts to weigh in with concerns were roundly ignored,” Willard said.

Willard was critical of the standards for several reasons, including that he considered them inadequate on various topics and “unnecessarily controversial and contentious” on the matters of evolution and climate change.

“These standards narrow the focus to only three areas, ecology, evolution and molecular biology,” Willard said in a statement to the board last month. “They give only scant, if any, attention, even in the high school standards, to the important disciplines of human anatomy, physiology, botany, zoology, and molecular biology.”

On climate change and evolution, he said, they fail to acknowledge an ongoing scientific debate.

“This non-objective, unscientific approach to education standards amounts to little more than indoctrination in political correctness,” he said in the statement.