Idaho Releases Revamped Science Standards Proposal

A state committee has made another attempt to break a deadlock over addressing climate change in Idaho classrooms.

But the last word in this controversy belongs to Idaho lawmakers — who removed references to climate change from state science standards earlier this year.

The State Department of Education unveiled five new climate change standards on Friday, with wording designed to address lawmakers’ concerns. The new language “was reworded to place a balanced focus on solutions and problems,” according to an SDE summary released in conjunction with the new standards.


The 2017 Legislature removed five standards that reference climate change and human impact on the environment. Lawmakers suggested that the language did not address both sides of the debate over climate change, and did not consider the possibility that human activity can have a positive effect on global climate.

Lawmakers adopted the remaining science standards earlier this year. They went into effect on a temporary basis, and will be reviewed in full in 2018.

After the legislative session, the SDE solicited public feedback online and held a series of six public meetings across the state, receiving more than 1,000 public comments. Then an SDE committee began working on a rewrite.


The committee tried to respond to lawmakers’ concerns, said committee member Christopher Taylor, the Boise School District’s science, social studies and health coordinator.

“We went through the five that were rejected and we talked a lot about how we want to keep the integrity of the standards,” Taylor said. “But we did look at legislators’ comments and took out words we knew were hot buttons.”

The committee also reviewed public comments before drafting the proposed new standards. Taylor said 98 to 99 percent of all comments supported implementing the science standards in full, including references to climate change and human impact on the environment.

The next step in the process comes in August, when the State Board of Education reviews the new language. The standards then go to the Legislature in 2018.

Click here to review the science standards approved earlier this year. (The standards lawmakers removed are set out in red text.)

Click here to read the full story in Idaho Ed News (May 19, 2017)

Teachers’ concerns lead to changes in California’s testing contract

Teacher complaints have been heard by the vendor that designs some of the California’s academic tests.

Partially in response to concerns raised by educators, the state Board of Education approved a $1.5 million contract amendment with Educational Testing Service that will help pay for teacher training in science.

Nearly $500,000 of the added costs will be spent on three in-person “Science Academies” to be held in the spring of 2018 in Northern, Central and Southern California to help teachers understand the Next Generation Science Standards, or NGSS.

The academies will train teachers using materials that the state and the vendor are developing for pilot science tests as part of the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, or CAASPP, standardized testing system.

Teachers’ concerns have also prompted the inclusion of more detailed student score reports for optional interim assessments, which some educators administer to students during the school year before the end-of-year tests. Many teachers had complained that the previous reports – which did not include test questions or student responses – were too vague to be useful.


But Board Member Patricia Rucker said “there is a gap in perception about the value of these interim assessments between what we’re expecting and what many people in the field believe is going on.”

She urged Center’s department to “create some kind of messaging to the field” that would clarify how teachers should use them. She also said she wished there was a way to ensure that teachers would actually “read the memo.”

Click here to read the full story in Ed Source (May 10, 2017)


Proposed new state science standards focus on ‘thinking like a scientist’

A draft of the newest version of the state’s science standards — a document that spells out what every Nebraska student should learn from kindergarten through high school — focuses on inquiry and thinking skills as much as scientific concepts.

“We’re promoting higher-level thinking through the standards,” said Sara Cooper, the Nebraska Department of Education’s science education specialist. “It’s not just learning a set of facts. It’s important to get them to understand, to explore ways to get to it, to think like a scientist.”

The draft is the first update of the science standards since 2010, and draws from other state’s standards and the National Research Council’s “Framework for K-12 Science Education,” which stresses using concepts common to all sciences and scientific and engineering inquiry skills.

Click here to read the full story in the Lincoln Journal Star (May 4, 2017)

Eugene district students to receive more science instruction, new course materials

High school students’ science quotient could rise because the Eugene School District soon will receive new science curriculum materials following a unanimous school board vote adopting the new coursework Monday.

It’s been more than a decade since the district has upgraded its science curricula at all grades, district documents show.

Materials included in the adoption of the new curricula include text books (either actual books or online “tech books”) for each student, interactive online resource subscriptions for each student, teacher editions and resources and professional development tools for instructors.

“The district is changing the science sequence and adding an earth science course for students to learn the full array of science standards in NGSS.” NGSS stands for Next Generation Science Standards.

The Next Generation Science Standards require a shift in how students approach learning about various scientific concepts by emphasizing three dimensions: content, scientific and engineering practices, and “cross-cutting concepts,” or being able to use core concepts to evaluate a variety of situations.

According to state education officials, most districts teach those three concepts as separate entities, which can make both instruction and assessment more difficult.

The new standards aim to have students use all three dimensions at once and prepare them for college and careers. The standards also are focused on a deeper understanding and application of scientific content that builds over time and is integrated into other areas of learning, such as English, language arts and math.

Click here to read the full story in The Register-Guard (May 5, 2017)

Climate change, Big Bang, GMOs among topics in draft science standards for Nebraska public schools


New draft science standards call upon students to think and act like scientists, gathering data, analyzing it and communicating their results.

“We’re testing this out,” said Ellen Kramer, a Millard Public Schools educator who served on the writing team for the Nebraska Department of Education. “We want to be ahead of the curve when the standards come out.”

The draft standards list what officials believe students should know and be able to do from kindergarten to high school.

The Big Bang theory, climate change, evolution and genetically modified organisms are among the topics addressed. On these weighty topics, the standards push students to draw their own conclusions after analyzing data.

For instance, the standards would prompt students to analyze global climate models to forecast the rate and scale of global or regional climate changes. The phrase “climate change” is not in the current standards.

Under the standards, students would be expected to understand the factors causing natural selection and the process of evolution of species over time, including “how multiple lines of evidence contribute to the strength of scientific theories of natural selection and evolution.” In the current standards, students do explore biological evolution as a theory.


The standards borrow from the Next Generation Science Standards. Those standards were developed by the National Research Council with states and other partners, including the National Science Teachers Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. As of last year, 18 states and the District of Columbia had adopted the Next Generation Science Standards. Iowa adopted a modified version.



If adopted by the State Board of Education next fall, the standards would replace standards adopted in 2010. School districts must, within a year, adopt state standards or their own standards of equal or greater rigor.

The draft of standards can be viewed at The board expects to add a link from the website to a survey for people to comment.

Adoption by the State Board of Education is anticipated in September.

Click here to read the full article in the Omaha World-Herald (May 5, 2017)

Texas must implement factual science standards

The great battle of the teaching of science in Texas schools — one that has been long-fought and has recurred nearly every year often just over the wording of a single section — comes down to a single issue: to teach creationism or to teach evolution. These standards are set to decide the quality of children’s education throughout the state, so choosing science-backed evolution should be easy. But this being Texas, and the Texas Education Board being run by conservatives, this isn’t always the case.

This year, the battle ended with the decision of a single word, “evaluate,” being excluded from the curriculum. The debate over this word, and others similar to it, was over the connotation it brought. Critics of the term believe it allows for students to question the validity of the evolutionary theories taught in biology classes, giving way for the teaching of creationism. Proponents of it argue that the language allows students to consider all sides of evolution science, as if fiction, otherwise known as creationism, should be revered as fact.

Click here to read the full story in The Daily Texan (May 2, 2017)

The Obama administration would not let California drop its old science tests. Will Trump?

California is trying out a new science test, one that’s supposed to reflect the more hands-on and interactive approach of the Next Generation Science Standards.

But under federal law, the state must continue to administer the old science test until the new one is up and running.

State Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson asked the Obama administration to let California out of this double-testing requirement, arguing that it wastes students’ time and the state’s money. The administration said no, more than once. That’s because the new test’s scores won’t be counted at first and the federal government wouldn’t accept years without valid science test scores.

Now the state is making the request again, to the new administration.

Click here to read the full story in the Los Angeles Times (May 2, 2017)

In Elementary School Science, What’s at Stake When We Call an ‘Argument’ an ‘Opinion’?

As more teachers are using both the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards, they will increasingly be confronted with a challenge: The standards in literacy and science—and the research literature in the two fields—disagree about when and how students learn to form arguments.

In a new article for Educational Researcher, Okhee Lee, a professor of education at New York University, suggests that standards writers and researchers need to consider the confusing and mostly unexamined situation teachers are in and figure out how to change it.

“The standards writers meant to help by making connections between science, ELA, and math, but the bodies of literature aren’t saying the same thing” about how students learn to form arguments, she said in an interview. “The foundational work hasn’t been done … Teachers, especially in K-5, must be very confused.”


Lee was clued into the discrepancy as she watched an experienced 2nd grade teacher demonstrate a lesson to a group of expert observers.

After a well-thought-out lesson on states of matter, the teacher’s sample writing assignment began with the following prompt: “Write your opinion on … .”

In Lee’s experience in teaching science, it seemed clear that a scientific writing assignment shouldn’t involve opinion, even in early elementary school. Opinions, she said, don’t require any evidence, and in a science class, students should be making arguments and backing them up with evidence. That’s the language used in the Next Generation Science Standards, which were in use in this teacher’s state.

But it turns out that the teacher’s writing assignment was perfectly in tune with the common core, which guides teachers to instruct their students in writing about opinions—but not arguments—in elementary school. In the common core’s standards for English/language arts, students aren’t asked to form arguments until middle school.

Lee writes that the two disciplines generally agree on the structure of argument. But, she writes, that “scholars across disciplines have yet to arrive at a common understanding of how ELA/literacy and science functionally interrelate with respect to argument.”

The NGSS specifically says that the standards should be interpreted so that they don’t misalign with or outpace the core. That leads to situations like the one Lee observed, where an elementary teacher asked students to write opinions, rather than arguments, about content in science class






Lee suggests that there may be a need for a forum or other research effort on the topic aimed at uncovering and resolving convergences and divergences in how educators think about argument, and for further research on how evidence-based argument can be promoted in elementary literacy and science classes. Her hope is that the standards can be seen as a “living document,” able to be updated when evidence from the field suggests that it’s necessary.





Click here to read the full story in Education Week (April 25 , 2017)



Alabama’s in the mainstream with a new way to teach science

(This is one of a series of stories about science in Alabama appearing each Wednesday on

Science teaching is changing across America, and Alabama is changing how it teaches science, too. But will the changes be enough or too much?

Dr. Bruce Alberts, a biochemist who headed the National Academy of Sciences and edited “Science” magazine, recently discussed the new way at Huntsville’s HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology. Afterward, Dr. Neil Lamb, the institute’s vice president for educational outreach, talked about Alabama’s approach.

“We find ourselves at a place where there is a decreased emphasis on science (in schools and society),” Lamb said. “And there is often a perception that science is grounded in beliefs, hunches and personal viewpoints rather than in interpretation of facts. We are now facing the concept that if you don’t like the conclusions, you can dismiss the findings out of hand.”

 That’s misunderstanding what science is and how science works, Lamb said. But the problem is also related to how science is taught. Here’s how Alberts described it.
A new model, where students do most of the talking in class, is included in the Next Generation Science Standards devised by teachers nationwide. Alabama’s new science standards follow the model. They were approved by the State Board of Education in 2015 and went into effect with the 2016 school year.
Alabama’s committees working on implementation in science, mathematics and reading will report their findings in May, Lamb said. Then Alabama parents, lawmakers and employers can begin their own conversation about the way science education is heading.
Click here to read the full story on (April 26, 2017)

Science’s war of words reaches truce

AUSTIN — Conservatives are claiming victory in a state education board decision to streamline controversial evolution-related biology standards, and as it turns out, liberals seem equally pleased.

A left-leaning watchdog group, the Texas Freedom Network, in a statement said the streamlined standards would “… no longer include misleading requirements designed to undermine the teaching of evolution.”

Meanwhile, Texas Values, a conservative nonprofit organization headlined its statement on the same decision: “Victory! State Board of Education Preserves Strong Science Standards.”

Ronald Wetherington, a Southern Methodist University anthropology professor, who as part of an advisory committee helped negotiate the changes that board members adopted last week, said finding language the factions could agree on involved compromises.

But Glenn Branch, deputy director of the National Center for Science Education, said there was no compromise in the scientific or pedagogical approach.

“It was a win for Texas students,” Branch said of the vote, which came the day before crowds around the world marched to support science. “It is definitely a positive change.”

Click here to read the full story in Pauls Valley Democrat (April 26, 2017)