What’s the big deal about Utah changing its science standards? Doesn’t “new” equal “improved”?
I have three items to share on this subject that come from other people, which I add to what I wrote in yesterday’s letter to the USOE Auditing Department, and then I’ll spout my own thoughts at the end.
1) First, I’m sharing an open letter of fellow Utah mom, Rhonda Hair, to the State Board, protesting Utah’s move toward inept common national science standards;
2) Second, I’m sharing a link to a review of the “science” in these standards by top biology professor Stan Metzenberg, published by Pioneer Institute;
3) Third, I’m republishing Alpine District board member Wendy Hart’s video alerting the public to the error of Utah adopting NGSS (also known as Utah’s New Science Standards or Massachusetts’ “new” draft science standards.
(If you want still more, read Utah scientist Vince Newberger’s blog, Science Freedom; see the side by side comparison of NGSS to Utah’s “new” standards (they are as identical twins with one freckle different); watch the video documentary to hear recorded promises of Utah legislators and board members who explained why Utah should/would never adopt federal/common science standards; read the furious report of parent Alisa Ellis who served on Utah’s parent review committee for these draft standards, read why Kansas parents for objective education sued their state school board for adopting these standards; watch the May 2015 public comment meeting in Salt Lake City about these standards, and read what Jakell Sullivan and I researched about NGSS many months ago.)
Then, contact the board: firstname.lastname@example.org !
- FROM A UTAH MOTHER, RHONDA HAIR:
Dear Utah State School Superintendent Brad Smith, State Science Specialist Ricky Scott, and State School Board Members:
I filled out the survey and would like to let you know a few things.
First, I am frustrated with the survey: it reads like a scholarly paper and is inaccessible to so many parents who intuitively know what is good but are intimidated by its complexity and minutiae. As a consequence, only parents who have obtained high-level education are going to feel confident about filling out such a survey. Are they the only parents who matter? I’ve been told you keep hearing from professors that these standards are great. Of course they think that. Your survey and standards draft are aimed at people at that level, and they live in a fairly insulated world of theory and numbers, not regular, real-world jobs.
Last time you offered a survey to parents, it was of a similar nature. I attended the board meeting when the results were reported. My survey was not counted; though I did give feedback, it didn’t fit your data set structure. If I remember correctly, only about 70 surveys had been filled out the way demanded. That is because what you are asking about is not what the parents are concerned about. You are asking about the cabins and furniture on a ship that has been hijacked.
While I do object to some specifics in the standards, what is most crucial in my opinion is the overruling of parental control that the Utah Board and Office of Education have done, with the legislature’s blessing. I don’t need to spend considerable time reviewing the standards (though I did) to know you are on the wrong track. These things should be decided at the very local level, where parents and teachers can work together to address the needs, wants, talents, and values of the families and individuals. The state Constitution specifies the Board is to have “general control” of education, which means what can apply to everyone, not “detailed control”. Your predecessors overstepped the intended bounds.
Please help remedy the situation by dropping these standards, rejecting federal strings and intervention, dropping state educational core curriculum, and allow the resulting vacuum to be filled naturally by the districts, schools, and families.
Parent of Utah public-ed students and homeschool students, B.S. in Elementary Education
“Astonishing” gaps in science content too large to be resolved editorially
BOSTON – Massachusetts’ draft pre-K through introductory high school Science and Technology/Engineering standards contain such startling gaps in science that they should be withdrawn from consideration, according to a new Policy Brief published by Pioneer Institute.
“The proposed science standards have significant, unacceptable gaps in science content,” says Dr. Stan Metzenberg, a professor of biology at California State University and author of “A Critical Review of the Massachusetts Next Generation Science and Technology/Engineering Standards.” “For example, they are stunningly devoid of Mendelian genetics and large parts of cellular biology. This is an astonishing oversight for a state that has notable institutions of higher education and a thriving biotechnology industry.”
At the high school level, the draft standards almost completely exclude Mendelian genetics. These concepts are not easily absorbed before high school, and their exclusion means students won’t be exposed to ideas that revolutionized biology at the beginning of the 20th century.
Their exclusion also makes it impossible to understand modern evolutionary theory and for students to grasp their own risk of carrying inherited disease. Massachusetts’ current science and technology/engineering curriculum frameworks include three Mendelian genetics standards.
The draft standards also exclude large parts of cellular biology, failing to teach high school students about the nucleus, mitochondria or chloroplasts.
Massachusetts currently has a curriculum framework for each of the body’s seven major systems (digestive, circulatory/excretory, respiratory, nervous, muscular/skeletal, reproductive and endocrine). But the draft would include these systems in a single composite standard, reducing students’ understanding and lessening their ability to talk to and understand their own physician and make healthy choices.
The draft standards never mention the name “Charles Darwin” and don’t adequately develop the basis for concepts of natural selection, making it exceedingly difficult to address Darwin’s theory of evolution in later grades.
Finally, the way the draft standards are written is overly complex, using sometimes ambiguous or grammatically incorrect language that fails to clearly communicate what students should know and be able to do. This ambiguity causes difficulty in the later grades.
About the Author
Dr. Stan Metzenberg is Professor of Biology at California State University, Northridge. He has 20 years’ experience teaching biological science at the university level. He was a senior science consultant for the Academic Standards Commission in California (1998) and a state Board of Education appointee to the California Science Project (1999-2003), the California Curriculum Development and Supplemental Materials Commission (2003- 2006) and a content review panelist for development of the California Standards Tests (1999-2010). He has recently assisted the ministries of education of Saudi Arabia (2010) and Qatar (2015) in training teacher leaders to use newly adopted science instructional materials.
Pioneer Institute is an independent, non-partisan, privately funded research organization that seeks to improve the quality of life in Massachusetts through civic discourse and intellectually rigorous, data-driven public policy solutions based on free market principles, individual liberty and responsibility, and the ideal of effective, limited and accountable government.
3. From Wendy Hart, board member of Alpine School Board, Utah’s largest public school district:
Thank you, Rhonda Hair, Professor Metzenberg, and Wendy Hart.
And now, a few closing thoughts of my own:
ON ACADEMIC FREEDOM
The entire nation of scientists do not agree on a common core of science. Why should kids be forced to do so? Science is a quest. Academic freedom to question with a fully open mind, matters. NGSS ends that for schools. NGSS’s vision of truth, including political underpinnings of “green” science, is the only correct science.
While some members of the USOE have pretended that the anti-NGSS people (like me) are anti-science people who would force God and intelligent design on all students, and that we would have public schools teaching nothing but the Old Testament as science school, that is not true. It is the pro-NGSS people who want to limit truth. They want the one-sided, politically charged version of science, slanted toward controversial “facts” being accepted by students as unquestionable scientific standards of truth; they want kids to believe that global warming and climate change is a fact, for example– even though in the real world of real scientists, that is a hotly debated and far from settled scientific issue. They want kids to believe that Darwinian evolution is flawlessly true. But that’s not what real scientists agree upon. Academic freedom demands the continuation of these huge questions in the classroom. That won’t happen with NGSS and the associated tests and curriculum defining scientific truth from a slanted perspective.
ON MISSING OUT ON MORE THAN JUST A FEW STRANDS OF SCIENCE
Beyond academic holes such as missing Mendelian genetics and missing math in NGSS, beyond the blind acceptance of Darwin and an overabundance of green-slanted “science” –there is an even bigger issue. In adopting NGSS, we are losing the freedom to set our own standards in the future because NGSS alignment stifles and shackles us with common, aligned tests and common educational data standards that tag our students’ daily work.
ON THE LOSS OF CONTROL OF STANDARDS, TESTING AND PRIVATE STUDENT DATA
It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of preserving the right and power of our local teachers, principals, parents, scientists, and board members to influence what is to be taught as truth under the banner of science.
Adopting NGSS, which are not being called NGSS standards by the USOE, but which are, in fact, NGSS standards, (see the side by side comparison of NGSS to Utah’s “new” standards ) is more than adopting academically debatable, “new” but not “improved” standards.
It’s a decision to shackle our students and teachers to a nationalized, common content that NGSS is promoting, and to shackle them to the testing and data mining of student attitudes about this politicized science. This move makes it efficient and easy for centralized power-holders (NGSS, federal government, state government, CEDS-aligned researchers) who have no business doing so, to not only dictate what truth in science looks like, but what student “achievement” in science will be. Why give them that power?
Note: the official site for NGSS states: “To reap the benefits of the science standards, states should adopt them in whole, without alteration”. That is what Utah is doing. Compare for yourself.
Opting out of standardized testing will not get around these problems, by the way, since “embedded assessment” (aka stealth testing) will make every student using technology in any form, a data-mining gold mine, daily.
Please, wake up, friends!
We are, right now, putting Utah on the conveyor belt of politically loaded, pre-packaged “true science” defined only by NGSS, with matching SAGE tests (or the upcoming, embedded tests) to monitor whether our kids are buying their version of “true science”.
This grave error comes with long lasting consequences. It will be as immovable as any long-lasting, formative decision. Long ago, we decided to build I-15. Theoretically, we can put it somewhere else now. But that is not very likely when the traffic (as NGSS-aligned technologies, codes, curricula, tests, teacher professional development, textbook purchasing and more) begins to barrel down that imperious boulevard.
ON THE WORD “NEXT GENERATION”
Big wigs have verbally crowned their crime against academic freedom with the glittering term “next-generation science.” Some people fall for the term; it must be the next great thing with such a title; but NGSS buy-in is an investment in long-term political and academic snake oil. There is nothing modern and magical about this slippery snake oil except the very big marketing dollars behind it.
Inform your representatives and board members that you say “No” to NGSS. (State board email: board@Utah.schools.gov)
Vince Newmeyer reported that:
“Board members have been told that the October draft is the existing standards updated with just the good stuff from the NGSS. To support their claim then produced a spreadsheet called the USEO standards crosswalk… I have taken their crosswalk and researched it further. The results are:
One new standard was written (6.3.4). Two standards originating from the current Utah Standards were added (7.2.4 & 8.1.2). Some existing NGSS standards went through a thesaurus translation but generally without change in character. Some NGSS standards remain word-for-word. Six standards were formed by combining two or more of the previous NGSS standards. Most of the previously duplicated standards were removed. Only one NGSS standard (MS-LS1-8) is not found. see also http://www.sciencefreedom.org/Issues-With-Oct-SEEd-Draft.html http://www.sciencefreedom.org/Oct-Utah-NGSS-Side-By-Side.html
USOE Admits that they Seek to generally adopt the National Next Generation Science Standard
USOE now admits in the materials distributed to the board members related to the October draft of the (UT SEEd) Standards October for their October 8-9, 2015 meeting that “Most SEEd standards remain based on the Next Generation Science Standards.” A similar statement is found in the foot notes of the introduction pages to each grade level of the standards released for the 30-day public review. (http://www.schools.utah.gov/CURR/science/Revision/SEEdStandardsDraft.aspx ) As we have seen in this text that “most” means that essentially all of the NGSS standard concepts are found in the October draft of the “Utah SEEd” with little added.
More details are at my ScienceFreedom.org webpage under articles.”
–From Vince Newmeyer