Wyoming Prevents Adoption of Next Generation Science Standards

(Cheyenne, WY) Citizens across Wyoming participating in a grassroots education movement celebrated one small victory as the legislative session drew to a close last week. An amendment to the budget was passed, which will prevent the State Board of Education from adopting the Next Generation Science Standards. This will provide an opportunity for the State Board of Education to look at better options for the state of Wyoming.

“I would like to thank all those legislators who were so courteous in listening to our concerns. It has been encouraging to have respectful conversations and to build on each other’s knowledge,” said Keith Grant, Bighorn County Commissioner.

Wyoming Citizens Opposing Common Core, a grassroots group, cites several reasons to support an option other than the Next Generation Science Standards. First, the NGSS failed to receive a high rating from the Fordham Institute. Instead, the NGSS earned a mediocre “C” grade, and the report found that “it would be impossible to derive a high school physics or chemistry course from the content included in the NGSS.” Given this assessment, the group isn’t convinced NGSS would prepare students for the growing need in the STEM career areas.

Further, the NGSS cannot be called objective, something parents and the business community expect of a quality science education. The disciplinary core ideas discuss several topics that require educators to teach unproven theories without demonstrating a balanced comparison to opposing ideas, most notably when dealing with human impact on the earth, climate change (global warming) and evolution.

Uinta County Conservation District, having closely examined these standards, echoed these concerns in a January letter to the State Board, the Governor and Legislators stating, “The standards should teach facts as facts and theories as theories, allowing students to form their own opinions in a healthy, non-partisan way.” It also questioned whether the promotion of international treaties and increased regulation as “solutions” was appropriate. Elizabeth Bingham, a mother from Rock Springs, also spotted the objectivity problem saying, “If we adopt NGSS, we will teach a whole generation of Wyoming’s children all of our key energy industries in Wyoming are nothing but detrimental to the planet.”

Alert stakeholders have investigated the current standards review process in Wyoming. This process needs to include a balanced writing team with non-educator parents and other community members. Objectivity and neutrality should be stated goals, and well-publicized public comment periods should be held with the intent of heeding public input. Citizens agree that Wyoming needs greatly improved science standards. Not all, however, see the NGSS as the answer.

For more information, contact Wyoming Citizens Opposing Common Core.

Additional information from COPE:

On March 5, 2014, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead signed the state’s budget bill into law.  The bill contains a provision that prohibits the Department of Education from spending funds to review or revise the state’s science standards.  Prior to this action, the state’s Board of Education was poised to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards for use in Wyoming.  At least through the two-year budget cycle, the new law prevents the state from adopting and implementing the Next Generation Science Standards.  This development is a victory for objectivity and neutrality in science education.  For the time being, Wyoming will keep its current 2008 science standards.

The Wyoming Department of Education started a review of the state’s academic content standards in 2010, with the aim to complete the process by the end of 2013.  A Science Content Review Committee recommended that the Wyoming State Board of Education adopt in whole the Next Generation Science Standards.

WDE presented the draft standards to the State Board for consideration at its Oct. 8, 2013 meeting.  The Board received further information on the NGSS-based standards at its next meeting, on Nov. 5.  Six members of Wyoming Citizens Opposing Common Core spoke against adoption of NGSS, and the Board decided to delay a vote until a later meeting.

At the Jan. 24, 2014, StateBoard meeting, proposed new standards in science (NGSS), social studies, physical education, and career and vocational education were discussed.  A statement signed by twenty members of the Wyoming Legislature was presented that said the review process “is in need of serious review and correction.”  The Board subsequently decided to delay a vote on adoption of the standards until a later meeting.

In the meantime, the Wyoming Legislature initiated its own action.  A bill was introduced (House Bill 97) that would establish an “advisory council” (including parents and teachers) to make recommendations on content and performance standards.  Rep. Tom Reeder sponsored H.B. 97 to counter the state’s earlier adoption of Common Core without significant input from parents and local school boards.  H.B. 97 passed introduction 47-13 and was approved 6-3 by the House Education Committee.  Unfortunately the bill died without receiving a vote on the House floor.

At this point, House Education Chairman Matt Teeters was able to insert an amendment pertaining to NGSS into the state’s budget bill (H.B. 1). This states that “neither the state board of education nor the department shall expend any amount appropriated under this section [education budget] for any review or revision of the student content and performance standards for science.”  Gov. Matt Mead signed the bill on March 5, with the amendment intact.

This new development in Wyoming is a victory for objectivity and neutrality in science education.  The courageous stand by Wyoming citizens against NGSS can serve as a model for other states.  COPE urges states considering NGSS to reject the program – or at least to delay action until the lawsuit against NGSS in Kansas is settled.