Please Show Up to Push Back on Science Standards at Statewide USOE Meetings Starting TOMORROW   4 comments

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The Utah State School Board —despite last year’s pushback, despite serious concerns of some of the state school board members–  is now moving to adopt national, common standards for science.  Watch this video to see the documented false promises by the USOE to legislators and local school board members, that Utah would never adopt nationalized science standards; this string of broken promises needs to be exposed and those breaking the promises need to be held accountable by our legislature and governor.

 

 

 

You are invited to the USOE’s public meetings on the subject, to be held statewide for a few weeks, starting TOMORROW.

Be forewarned: the USOE won’t admit that Utah is adopting NGSS.   To know this bit of information, you have to be in touch with those parents who served on the science study committee.  Utah indeed is (out of sight of the public) pushing for adoption of NGSS but the USOE claims that it’s only revising its old standards, and that the revision is limited to middle school science standards for now, so it’s not whole NGSS adoption, they say.  But do your research.  They’ve been caught fibbing more than once.  And they are fibbing now.

So, what are the “Next Generation Science Standards” (NGSS)  and why should we take time fight them?

NGSS are common Science Standards created by businessmen and politicians at Achieve, Inc., aimed to make all students use (and be tested on) the same set of science-related standards nationwide.  Achieve, Inc., is the same group that pushed Common Core math and English into being.  (So if you didn’t love Common Core, heads up.)

As with Common Core math and English standards, states lose control when they adopt NGSS.  Achieve Inc., is private, so it’s not subject to sunshine laws– no transparency.  So right or wrong, good or bad, we’ll have no way to even know which scientific theories are being accepted or rejected, or what kind of lobbying monies are determining priorities for learning.  We will not be able to affect in any appeal to local boards, what our children will be taught or tested.  That power will have gone to the standards copyright holders and corporate test creators.  We have no method of un-electing those controllers, no way for our scientists to affect any amendments made in the ever-changing and politically charged future of science.

It is also tragically true that Fordham Institute rated NGSS as inferior to many states’ science standards.  Still, many states, including Utah, are adopting NGSS anyway– a sad reminder of recent history, when certain states with prior standards higher than Common Core dropped their standards  to be in Common Core.  It’s also a sad proof that the claim that “the standards are higher and better for all” was nothing more than a marketing lie, then for English and math, and now for science.

There are important reasons  that South Carolina officially rejected NGSS.

And so did Wyoming.

Kansas parents sued the state school board over it.

West Virginia is fighting about it.

It’s a hot topic in many other  states.

But do Utahns even know it’s going on here?  (How would they know unless they were personal friends of the parent review committee?)  The USOE won’t even admit that Utah is aiming to adopt NGSS!  To do Utah-specific homework on this, read this article.  And this one. 

Then come to the meeting.  The USOE is calling the new standards “a revision” rather than a wholesale adoption of NGSS standards, in what appears to be an attempt to deceive the people. Parent committee members opposed to the change, including scientist Vincent Newberger, have pointed out that one word– one– was altered from NGSS standards in Utah’s “revision of its own standards” and some NGSS standards were only renumbered, so that the proponents could feel truthful about calling these standards a “revision” of Utah’s prior science standards rather than an adoption of national standards.  The USOE’s open meetings are not, supposedly, to promote NGSS but are to promote what USOE calls a “revision of middle school science standards” only.

Parents need to take control of this conversation.

Ask yourself:  1)  Is this revision actually an adoption of NGSS?  2)  Do I want national science standards in Utah?

Answer one:  If you read what parent committee members are testifying, you will conclude that this revision IS an adoption of NGSS.

Answer two:  As with Common Core, we must push back against national science standards for two reasons:  control of standards (liberty) and content of standards (academics).

CONTROL

Although parent committee members on Utah’s “revision” team testify that the content is global warming-centric, and electricity-dismissive, and testify that the standards present as facts, controversial theories only accepted by certain groups; to me, the enduring issue is control, local power.

If we adopt standards written by an unrepresentative, nonelected, central committee– standards that don’t come with an amendment process for future alterations as scientific theories and studies grow– we give away our personal power.

Even if these standards were unbiased and excellent, we should never, even for one second, consider adopting national/federally promoted standards– because science is ever-changing and ever politically charged.  We are foolish to hand away our right to judge, to debate, to control, what we will be teaching our children, and to let unelected, unknown others decide which science topics will be marginalized while others are highlighted in the centrally controlled standards.   Would we allow a nontransparent, unelected, distant group to rewrite the U.S. Constitution?  Never.  Then, why is representation and power concerning laws and policies affecting our children’s knowledge, beliefs and skills any less important?

Representation is nonexistent in NGSS standards adoption, despite the token cherrypicked teacher or professor who gets to contribute ideas to the new standards.  Unless there is a written constitution for altering our standards so that we retain true control of what is taught, no federal or national standards should ever, ever be accepted.  Adopting centralized standards is giving away the key to the local castle.

Are these just harmless, minimal standards without any teeth or enforcer?  Hardly; the enforcement of the science standards is embedded in the nationally aligned tests, tests which carry such intense pressure for schools and students (school grading/shutdown; teacher evaluation/firing) that they have become the bullies of the educational system.

CONTENT

Know this:  NGSS are neither neutral nor objective.   This explains why pushback against NGSS is so strong in some states, even to the point of lawsuits against state school boards over NGSS.  NGSS standards are slanted.

It may come as a surprise that religious freedom is a key complaint against these standards.  This was pointed out by plaintiffs in the Kansas lawsuit, which alleged that implementation “will cause the state to infringe on the religious rights of parents, students and taxpayers under the Establishment, Free Exercise, Speech and Equal Protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution.”

The legal complaint stated that “the principal tool of indoctrination is the concealed use of an Orthodoxy known as methodological naturalism or scientific materialism. It holds that explanations of the cause and nature of natural phenomena may only use natural, material or mechanistic causes, and must assume that supernatural and teleological or design conceptions of nature are invalid. The Orthodoxy is an atheistic faith-based doctrine that has been candidly explained by Richard Lewontin, a prominent geneticist and evolutionary biologist, as follows:

“Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, thatwe are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.” [Richard Lewontin, Billions and Billions of Demons, 44 N.Y. Rev. of Books 31 (Jan. 9, 1997) (emphasis added)]

 

So, under NGSS, you can’t teach, as some scientists do, that evolution can exist alongside creationism.  Under scientific materialism/methodological naturalism, any “design conception” is invalid.

Other complaints against NGSS science standards are that they pit environmental activism against activists who want freedom to use natural local resources;  that they ask students to see themselves as either global warming believers or global warming deniers, to the exclusion of scientific inquiry; that they pit advocates of scientific open debate against advocates for scientific and political consensus-seeking; that they push the orthodox religion of atheism rather than allowing students to decide for themselves whether or not to include Creation in their personal scientific study.

Below is a list of the upcoming science meetings in Utah, where any citizen may come and ask questions and make comments.

Friends, we need to show up and bring neighbors.  If too few Utahns find out and push back, the NGSS standards will slide right in like Common Core for math and English did.  Please cancel your other plans.  Bring your video cameras if you come.  It’s an open, public meeting so recording seems proper and fair.  Recording USOE official replies to questions from parents can only encourage accountability from the USOE to the citizens.  If you can’t attend one of the meetings in the next weeks, please comment (and ask others to comment) on the USOE’s  90 day public comment survey link.

Before I list the meeting times and dates and cities, I want to share portions of an email sent out from a Washington County, Utah citizen to other citizens of Washington county.  I don’t know who wrote this email:

 

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Washington County Email:

“Washington County was settled by wise men and women who worked hard to make our red desert bloom.  They have passed down a wonderful heritage of hard work and love for the land to all who have followed them.  We are now reaping the fruits of the careful planning and preservation that has become a way of life to all who make Washington County their home.  We desire to pass this heritage along to our children so that the generations to come will continue to be wise stewards of this land that we love.

 

It is hard to understand why anyone from Washington County would allow their children to be taught a science curriculum that does not align with our value system.  Imagine how powerful it would be to teach our children the science behind why our soil is red, how ancient volcanos came to pepper our back yards with basalt rock, what made our sand dunes petrify, why dinosaur footprints can be found in farm land and what makes our sunsets so spectacular.  As our children learn the unique science of the environment around them, they will have greater knowledge and appreciation of the diverse environments around the world.  They will also come to appreciate the importance of being wise stewards wherever their paths may lead them.

 

We now have an opportunity to protect our right to teach our children.   The Federal Government has incentivized groups to develop the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and those groups have worked tirelessly to get them implemented in Utah, and all states.  Please come and learn more about the NGSS from Vincent Newmeyer, a member of the NGSS review committee.  We will be meeting on Thursday, April 23rd at 6:00 P.M. at the St. George Downtown Library (88 W. 100 S. St. George).  Mr. Newmeyer is one of the review committee members who have great concerns about the NGSS.  These members are generously giving their time to visit communities to warn them about these new federal standards.

 

Directly following the meeting with Mr. Newmeyer, there will be a public meeting with the State and Local School Boards to discuss these federal standards tied to high-stakes testing onThursday, April 23rd at 7:00 P.M. at the Washington School District Office Board Room at 121 Tabernacle Street in St. George.”  

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USOE Public Feedback Meetings

All Meetings are 7 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Thursday, April 23
Washington School District Office
Location: Board Room
121 Tabernacle Street
St George, Utah 84770
Note: The main doors will be locked.  Access through the front side doors.

Tuesday, April 28
Uintah School District Office
Location: Board Room (Upstairs)
635 West 200 South
Vernal, Utah 84078

Wednesday, May 6
Provo School District Office
Location: Professional Development Center
280 West 940 North
Provo, Utah 84604

Wednesday, May 13
Cache County School District Office
Location: Professional Development Center
2063 North 1200 East
North Logan, Utah 84341

Tuesday, May 19
Salt Lake Center for Science Education (SLCSE)
Location: The Media Center
1400 Goodwin Avenue
Salt Lake City, Utah 84116

 

 

4 responses to “Please Show Up to Push Back on Science Standards at Statewide USOE Meetings Starting TOMORROW

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  1. Glad to see some writing on this subject; so far, I’ve found little serious review either way. And yet where I live, Maine, we’re seeing the same game where the state DoE quietly pushes NGSS for several years and the seeks legislation knowing full well it’s been established.

    Here is a copy of a statement I sent to our Committee on Education:

    Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs
    c/o Legislative Information
    100 State House Station
    Augusta, ME 04333

    Dear Honorable Members of the Committee:

    I respectfully urge the Committee to reject LD 464, ” Act To Improve Science and Engineering Education for Maine’s Students”, and LD 567 “Resolve, To Implement Recommendations from the Maine Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education and Workforce Plan”, both of which will impose the so-called Next Generation Science Standards (“NGSS”) on Maine’s schools without serious review or consideration by the citizens of our state. Both of these pieces of legislation are premature, exposing our state to a serious risk of years of wasted time and expenditures and would usurp Maine’s constitutional guarantee of local control.

    I write to you as a concerned parent and citizen, who has served as both a member and chair of School Administrative District 60, and was a member of North Berwick’s Budget Committee. I have taught mathematics and science to both high-school and college students.

    I am attorney and entrepreneur with more than 25~years of experience in world-wide intellectual property matters, especially in the software and bio-pharmaceutical fields. I have undergraduate and graduate degrees in chemistry from the University of Chicago (with a strong concentration in applied mathematics) and Harvard University, and a law degree from the University of California. I am also a published inventor and patent holder in the pharmaceutical and food safety fields.

    Among my professional accomplishments are managing the acquisition and implementation of a major intellectual property competitive intelligence computer system, the creation of a digital library of the patent and other legal documents, and implementation of a digital work flow system, for a major bio-pharmaceutical company’s legal department. I also successfully helped start a Silicon Valley patent branch office for a major national law firm, and developed a business model for a cost-efficient patent support consulting business that provided logistical support, advice, and management consulting on intellectual property matters for small companies.

    I have authored numerous letters and op-ed pieces on educational and other matters of public importance, as well as articles on intellectual property matters in professional journals and articles on history and strategy in various magazines.

    The NGSS have only recently been put into final form, and have only been adopted by eight states (California, Delaware, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington (state)). None of these states has had to time put these standards into practice in any significant way. (Although practicing teachers are beginning to complain, as I’ll point out below.) The two acts at issue here would therefore likely make Maine only the ninth state to adopt the standards formally, putting Maine on the “bleeding edge” for exposing all of the warts in this program on the taxpayer’s dime.

    Among the likely pitfalls, we’ll suffer from not having a clear review of the deficiencies in the current Maine Learning Results and the NGSS. What exactly do we lack, and will (and how) can NGSS address that deficiency? This review and discussion has been lacking, as it appears the Maine Department of Education quietly started urging the NGSS to be a de fact standard for our schools. In short, like Common Core, NGSS is another educational reform pig in a poke.

    As we’ll see below, the radical changes the NGSS demands on schools raises questions about the ability of Maine’s school districts and towns to implement these reforms without significant unbudgeted costs for teacher training, new materials, and new tests. The coupling of NGSS to the Common Core math standards is especially problematic, given the extensive criticism of the Common Core’s weaknesses in mathematics. In short, then Maine faces extensive taxpayer costs for instituting NGSS on top the costs for Common Core mathematics, which according to the Fordham Institute’s review, will likely be inadequate to meet the needs of NGSS. Thus, Maine will likely have to provide additional mathematics materials and training to address the Common Core’s shortcomings.

    Consider the following criticisms from a California teacher, Paul Bruno, who has had direct experience with NGSS (http://edsource.org/2013/california-should-not-adopt-next-generation-science-standards-2/63670#.VQchzstkCkc).

    * The standards are poorly written, being so “difficult to decipher that at various times the drafters have released a 2½ minute instructional video and a 5-page set of written directions to aid in interpreting them.” The difficulty reflects the decision of the NGSS drafters to follow the National Research Council’s “Framework for K-12 Science Education”, “which distinguishes “science practices,” “disciplinary core ideas” and “crosscutting concepts” as three related-but-distinct aspects of scientific literacy. ” Huh?

    * NGSS, (like Common Core’s Math and ELA standards) emphasizes “skills” over “knowledge”, even though “the [National Research Council] itself failed to find significant evidence to support that view in a 2012 review of the research”. Thus, “the new science standards should not risk promoting it among our nation’s educators.”

    * Students are not likely to succeed at science without a strong knowledge base, exactly what NGSS discounts.

    * “Insufficient specificity is a recurring problem in the NGSS, which means that the document as a whole fails to provide adequate guidance for science teachers and will make the meaningful interpretation of yet-to-be designed common tests difficult.”

    * Since only about half of the states are even considering adopting NGSS, the idea of any meaningful performance comparisons among states is highly doubtful.

    Mr. Bruno’s reference to the National Research Council’s Framework is important, for that document set the pedagogical philosophy used by the drafters of the NGSS. But the Framework has serious deficiencies.

    First, none of the drafters had any connection to research-based industry or the more traditional areas of academic scientific research. Many of the academics were associated schools of education or research areas involving highly interdisciplinary studies, which appears to have led them to claim that science has somehow “changed”.

    But in my experience working with engineers and scientists from the U.S., Europe, Japan, China, and India for over a quarter century, much important research is still done in the traditional realms of chemistry, physics, and biology using a very traditional view of the scientific method. And colleges and business still instruct and hire along those lines, not some vague idea of new “epistemic knowledge” and “epistemic practices” as stated in the Framework at page 78.

    So, is a new approach really that helpful?

    Appendix H of the NGSS makes it clear that much of the underlying philosophy of the NGSS is adopted from the work of James Bryant Conant, particularly from his 1947 book, “On Understanding Science”, in which he argued for teaching science from a “holistic” viewpoint, in which students were exposed to case studies illustrating how scientist approached entire problems. But Conant’s book was directed to students at Harvard University or the other elite universities and colleges, whose graduates were expected to someday make major policy decisions in government and industry. And these students generally had strong chemistry, physics, and biology training in the nation’s elite prep- and public schools. At no time, and in no way, did Conant even suggest this approach could be used to teach science generally to children.

    Therefore, a major question remains whether NGSS can really live up to it’s claims. NGSS requires teachers to teach the basics of chemistry, physics, and biology in the context of cross-disciplinary subjects like climate change and evolution. Setting aside the question of whether these are appropriate to be taught with such emphasis, those championing NGSS should be able to clearly address the following:

    1. Why is teaching “meta-science” important for children, since there is no clear answer to what the “science of science” is?

    2. Can teachers really break out meaningful basic science education from the larger contextual program of NGSS. In other words, can one really learn to play the piano by joining an orchestra before studying the piano alone? Can a student learn about horses and donkeys by studying a mule, since a mule is a hybrid of the two? Generally, in my own research and patent experience, successful cross-disciplinary (or cross-cutting to use the NGSS’s language) require strong basic understandings of the constituent disciplines. You can’t learn the basics by trying to disentangle the whole.

    3. How can teachers avoid simply reciting canned lessons if they aren’t well trained in the disciplines that constitute the NGSS context?

    4. Why not just fund current programs more fully to provide more teachers, better teachers, and better materials?

    Clearly, this is just the tip of the ice berg. Supporters of NGSS should not be allowed to rush this program through the legislature, especially overrunning the states constitutionally protected local control of curriculum, without clearly describing why we need this and how it can be implemented successfully.

    Please vote No on these bills. We need more study before buying what’s in the poke.

    Respectfully submitted,
    David P. Lentini
    North Berwick

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