Have you ever been told ‘we would NEVER adopt the national science standards’? I have; numerous times from many elected officials.
I started to push back against the Common Core reforms in early 2012. We warned this wasn’t simply about a set of standards. We warned there is more coming down the pipeline. The move to centralize and control education is moving at a rapid pace. We warned there were national science and social study standards waiting in the wings. We later warned there were national sex ed standards. We warned and warned and warned.
More often than not our pleas seem to fall on deaf ears….at least with decision makers.
In September of this year I was appointed to serve on the State science standards review committee.
The committee consists of 5 parents appointed by the Senate, 5 parents appointed by the House, and 7 subject experts appointed by the board chair. On paper that sounds like a measured and balanced approach.
The committee doesn’t have the feel of a parent committee, more like a who’s who in science committee with a couple of “regular” parents thrown in. Arguably, they are parents too, but that wasn’t the intent of the committee.
These committees can be manipulated to pick and choose who are the chosen few to have a real say in what is happening. The law already required parental input so I don’t feel the committee is necessary.
I know the state office was frustrated so many “anti-common core” parents were chosen and I’m concerned the USOE (UT State Office of Education) is manipulating the process.
First, they sent a list of parents they recommended as being chosen to the Senate and House. Isn’t that sweet?
Second, prior to the meeting I was sent a link to the current science standards with the assignment to thoroughly review the standards. I knew that the state office had already started working on new standards so why spend so much time looking at standards that are already on their way out.
Third, prior to the meeting we were also sent a pro-common core propaganda piece to help prepare for my meeting. That really bugged.
Fourth, upon arrival at the meeting we were assigned seats. I’ll never know for certain if our names were carefully arranged or not but it did seem to be that the “parents” were surrounded by “experts”. I just happened be to sitting by the lead writer of the national science standards.
Fifth, two members of the “writing” committee were also on the “review” committee. Does that even make sense?
Sixth, a good portion of the beginning of our meeting was devoted to explaining the purpose of the meeting and they made it clear the meeting was definitely NOT to talk about Common Core. Do they realize the entire reason the committee exists is BECAUSE of Common Core?
Seventh, we were strongly encouraged not to speak to each other outside of the meeting in smaller groups and to only communicate with the entire committee because this was a “collective” effort.
Eighth, we were repeatedly encouraged NOT to blog about the meeting because that would just be awkward at our next meeting…oops.
In all seriousness, I planned on following their request because everyone was really nice and I enjoyed the conversations I had with committee members but the more I thought about the meeting and how manipulated it was the more resolve I felt to let people know.
Ninth, we spent over an hour going over the current, intended to be thrown out, standards.
At 11 AM, one hour to the close of our meeting, we finally received the draft standards and broke up into committees to discuss. That does not leave enough time to look much at content. The staff was going to close comments at the end of our meeting but I cited the law and asked that we have more time to submit feedback.
******Sorry for the bitter tone, everyone was very nice BUT I did feel manipulated and that bothered me.******
Now on to the standards….
The proposed standards are…….dun, dun, dun….
IDENTICAL to the Next Generation Science Standards! (NGSS) Is anyone surprised? Yeah, I didn’t think so.
I went to the meeting expecting to see this.
I would give you proof with a side by side comparison but in order to be able to leave the meeting with the draft copies, I had to sign a non-disclosure statement that I wouldn’t make any digital copies. Lucky for you they’re publicly available online for your perusal and enjoyment.
Feel free to download a copy here: http://www.nextgenscience.org/next-generation-science-standards
Currently, UT is only changing our 6-8th grade standards so look at Middle School Standards.
The “writing” committee carefully reformatted each page and only put one standard on a page instead of multiple.
Each page contain the same few basic elements.
- The standard or Performance Expectation
- Clarification Statement
- Assessment Boundary
- Cross cutting Framework
Here is an example of one page from the NGSS:
Now let’s take a closer look:
The red arrow points to the standard’s identity and the green box outlines exactly what the standard or performance expectation is.
The green box is outlining the clarification statement.
The Assessment Boundaries are now outlined in green.
Below is a portion framework developed by the National Research Council.
The National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers have developed “Common Core State Standards” in mathematics and language arts, and 43 states and the District of Columbia have adopted these standards as of early 2011. The anticipation of a similar effort for science standards was a prime motivator for this NRC study and the resulting framework described in this report.
To maintain the momentum, the Carnegie Corporation commissioned the nonpartisan and nonprofit educational reform organization Achieve, Inc., to lead states in developing new science standards based on the NRC framework in this report. There is no prior commitment from multiple states to adopt such standards, so the process will be different from the Common Core process used for mathematics and language arts. But it is expected that Achieve will form partnerships with a number of states in undertaking this work and will offer multiple opportunities for public comment.
Sound familiar? Same players, same tune…
Underneath the colorful framework boxes is listed the Common Core standards that go along with each standard.
There were some changes made in the proposed draft and I’ll list them out generally here and will be able to get more specific at a later date.
- UT added a Root question to help arrange the standards by topic
- THE STANDARDS or PERFORMANCE EXPECTATIONS ARE IDENTICAL
- Clarification Statements- the majority are the same but the writing team did add to, delete (minimal), re-order and rephrase
- Assessment Boundaries – some changes but very little
- Framework – IDENTICAL
The important part is that the standards are 99.9 % the same with the exception of one word that was left out. I’ve been communicating with the State Board of Ed and it doesn’t appear that any board member knew the national standards were being used. Most seemed to think we were updating our old standards.
The Next Generation Science Standards were scored a C by the Fordham institute.
Fordham said that the current UT standards were clearly superior to the NGSS. In fact there are 14 states with clearly superior standards. If this were truly about raising achievement, those state standards would be our guide not sub-par standards with a very clear political bent.
Here’s the full review:
In fact, Utah’s current standards are rated higher than NGSS. Why are we intent on lowering our standards?
Citizens in Kansas are currently suing their state board of ed. From their website:
The Complaint alleges that the implementation of NGSS “will have the effect of causing Kansas public schools to establish and endorse a non-theistic religious worldview,” in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
Start researching now and be prepared to comment during the 90 day public comment period.
Public comment begins in December but there is no reason we can’t urge the state board to throw these out and start over. Elections are next week, find out where the candidates stand on the Next Generation Science Standards. Call, text, write and plead with the current state board to go back to the drawing board. Utah students deserve better.