"But if it is believed that these elementary schools will be better managed by...any other general authority of the government, than by the parents within each ward [district], it is a belief against all experience." --Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Walks and Talks like National Science Standards But....Really an Ostrich

Come Wednesday, May 6  @ 7pm to the public comment meeting for Utah's Newly Proposed Science Standards being held at Provo School District Office, 280 West 940 North, Provo, Utah, 84604. 

The new science standards are All That and a Kit-Kat.  (or that's what you're supposed to believe).  In point of fact, there are a lot of problems with the standards...starting with the fact that they are a cut-and-paste version of a set of national science standards (designed to not be exactly Common Core science, hence the new name, but created by the same organization anyway.) This is the chance to make a difference.  In a couple of years, when you see the problem, it will be much harder to fix. 

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are the next set of 'state-led, not national, but adopted by lots of states, nationally, standards' that aren't really Common Core; although, they were developed by the same organization (Achieve, Inc) that started us off on the Common Core standards for English and Math.  (If you call them Common Core Science Standards, you will be ridiculed.  They changed the name....walks like a duck, talks like a duck...Ostrich--with webbed feet and much smaller!)

In May, 2009, a concern was raised by State Board Member Kim Burningham, that the adoption of a national set of standards (Common Core) in a couple of subjects (English and math) would lead to subsequent adoption of additional subjects. (Audio, May 1, 2009, National Common Standards)

In July, 2011, this same concern was raised at our Alpine School Board retreat, after the adoption of Common Core.  I was, personally assured we wouldn't adopt another set of national standards, by then-Curriculum director at the State Office, Sydnee Dickson, "I do want to address, Wendy, one of the comments you made about science and social studies. Our board has been very clear, that if national standards are developed, or even a consortium of states come together that we will not adopt those because there are just too many philosophical variances within those, and so, they've just been really clear, up front, that we're not going there." (1st Audio file @ 38:45: http://sbs.alpinedistrict.org/cgi-bin/WebObjects/eAgenda.woa/wa/displayMeeting?meetingID=850)

At the beginning of the Common Core implementation process, we were repeatedly assured, from all sides, that national science and social studies standards would never be adopted by Utah...until now.

While there are several concerns about the parent panel not knowing that these standards were, in fact, the NGSS, and how long it took to figure out that the 'science writing team' was really the science 'cut and paste from the NGSS document' team, the bigger issues are:

1) Parental Control: Parents, during the public comment meetings, were told that not everything that exists in the NGSS has been presented to the public.  The teachers will get much more detail on what the standards actually are. "It would be too overwhelming" for parents to actually see and know and understand what their kids are being taught.

2) Lower standards: Fordham Foundation rated Utah's current science standards 'Clearly Superior' to the NGSS standards.  Utah has B-rated science standards and NGSS are C-rated.  Why would we exchange our locally-developed/controlled, better standards for something sub-par, just to stay behind with other states? (Sarcasm alert!) Clearly, we wouldn't want to be known for our better standards and our superior science education, when we could have students held back to be common and below what they could be.  This way, we don't make the other states feel bad.  

From Fordham's review:
"Among the shortcomings of the NGSS is its acute dearth of math content, even in situations where math is essential to the study and proper understanding of the science that students are being asked to master." [emphasis mine]
Oh, and Fordham LOVES national standards and Bill Gates' money.  These standards are so bad, that even they are not willing to endorse them for states like Utah.

3) Science appreciation, not science: One reviewer, Ze'ev Wurman testified before the Ohio House that the NGSS will create students who have an appreciation for science but who can't do science.  His conclusion states:
"The proposed New Generation Science Standards are flawed and aimed at preparing science and technology consumers rather than technology creators. They offer a false promise of enhancing STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Math] preparedness..."

 4) Slanted perspectives: And our own State Superintendent, Brad Smith, at an educational forum held at Westlake HS last Friday said that some of the topics in these standards present a one-sided view of an issue.  He is hoping to 'tweak' these standards to make them acceptable.

5) Before-the-fact Training: All public school districts and charter schools were invited to send staff to a training at Weber State last fall to receive training in these new science standards.  Why train teachers/curriculum directors on something that might not happen?  Why are these standards so incredible that it requires a full-day seminar, before the fact, to properly train everyone?  Something smells like a duck too. 

6) Controversial: A group in Kansas has filed a lawsuit, and is now appealing on the basis that these standards prohibit a worldview that is compatible with a belief in God.  Wyoming's legislature has blocked the adoption of NGSS.  This is not a basic set of science standards without controversy.  Could that explain the need for a Utah writing team and a different name?

Please come tomorrow and comment.  Contact the State board and ask them to scrap this attempt at giving us lower standards in the interest of being the same as other states. Please do not accept the idea that we can tweak standards we don't want. 

A friend of mine who analyzed textbook bias in college indicated that the hardest form of bias to spot is the one of omission.  You can see what is there, but you have to step back and see what is missing.  What is the picture of the world these standards are painting?  According to Mr. Wurman, one where kids are consumers of science, but don't have the abilities to be scientists, themselves....

Oh, and they're not a duck....I mean NGSS or national standards or ....!

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