The Wyoming State Board of Education met on November 5, 2013, to consider adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards. Having some unanswered questions regarding the new standards, the Board decided 9-1 to postpone the adoption process pending further review.
The Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) started a review of the state’s academic content standards in 2010, with the aim to complete the process by the end of 2013. Under the supervision of WDE consultant Dr. Jim Verley, the science review process began in early 2012. A Science Content Review Committee consisting of 37 individuals was appointed to conduct this review. WDE stated that “educators, parents, students, business and industry representatives, community college representatives, and the University of Wyoming” all helped with the development of the standards. However, nearly all of the committee members were educators. Also, the Committee really didn’t “develop” any standards; they merely recommended that the Wyoming State Board of Education (WSBE) adopt in whole the Next Generation Science Standards.
WDE presented NGSS to the State Board for adoption on November 5. The department provided a statewide survey (with 34 teachers as participants) showing support for NGSS. A public participation period followed in which eight citizens commented on NGSS. Only one of these individuals, a teacher and Review Committee member, spoke in favor of adoption. The other seven spoke against the new standards. Several aspects of NGSS were mentioned, including (1) the pending Kansas lawsuit alleging NGSS establishes an atheistic worldview, (2) the bias in favor of unguided evolution, (3) the promotion of specific political viewpoints on environmental issues, (4) the lack of citizen and teacher input to the standards review process, (5) the unfavorable Fordham Institute evaluation of NGSS, and (6) the bias against fossil fuels, which are very important to Wyoming’s economy.
During Board discussion, one member made a motion to put NGSS “on hold” so the Department and Board could take a closer look at the standards; this motion was not seconded. A second motion was made and subsequently seconded, however. This called for approval of the standards for the public comment period, accompanied by the following actions by WDE:
2. Provide an analysis of the impact of the proposed revisions to teacher professional development and student assessment.
3. Provide a plan to address the impact the revisions will have on teachers and on student assessments.
4. Provide a communications plan to assure that parents, the public, and educators have full access to the appropriate research and the standards.
The motion passed by a 9-1 vote. The State Board does not meet in December, so the next Board meeting will be in January.
This delay in consideration of NGSS in Wyoming is a promising sign. It shows that at least one State Board of Education has questions about NGSS that require study and resolution. It would have been better if the State Board had requested the Wyoming Attorney General to review NGSS with regard to its legality in light of the Kansas lawsuit. This did not happen, however. Nevertheless, it seems clear that the Wyoming Board is reluctant to adopt NGSS until various issues can be clarified. The Board’s action appears to be a response to political pressure in opposition to the proposed standards.
Robert Lattimer, President, Citizens for Objective Public Education (COPE)
This is a guest post submitted by Robert Lattimer.