Letters from Science Teachers to Sup. Smith

Brad Smith, state superintendent
Brad Smith, state superintendent

Here are a couple of letters science teachers have sent to State Superintendent Brad Smith regarding the Common Core (NGSS) Science Standards.



Dear Supt. Smith:

It has come to my attention that you are under the impression that science teachers unanimously believe the Next Generation Science Standards are what Utah needs. I would like to go on the record as a Utah 6th Grade Science teacher that does not believe we should adopt the NGSS for Utah. I would like to share with you some thoughts I have about the proposed standards and I hope you will take the time to read this. I appreciate you doing so!

I have personally written letters to every state school board member, my principal, and my superintendent whom I gave permission to forward my letters to other individuals with interest in this subject including the Governor’s office. I have also attended a public meeting put on by the USOE and voiced my concerns publicly in that meeting. All of the middle school science teachers in my school (6th through 8th Grade) have also met with a local school board member, and our state school board representative, Terryl Warner, where our concerns were shared and documented. I have spent nearly 20 years in a 6th grade classroom. Five of those years in an elementary setting, the rest in a middle school. I currently teach science exclusively with the exception of one period a day when I teach reading. I have a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction and was part of the committee at the Utah State Office of Education in 2013-2014 to write the 6th Grade Science OER (Open Educational Resource) Book. I share that with you only to show that my experience with 6th grade science is extensive.

I first previewed the drafts of the proposed new standards in September 2014 at a conference at Weber State University. At that time, we were told that the changes to the standards were made by a large group of teachers and experts in Utah. We were not given copies of the drafts and it wasn’t until they became public that I was then able to do a google search on the actual verbiage of the new standards to find that they are in fact word for word exact copies of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) with different numbering. It is disturbing to me that the USOE presented these new standards to a group of current Utah science teachers as being written by Utah teachers when clearly they were not. Since that time the state office has admitted that the drafts are indeed word for word copies of the NGSS and teachers only helped in choosing root questions for them and which standards would go with which grade levels.

I am not opposed to making changes to the current standards. With that being said, I was surprised by the fact that virtually all the science concepts we have been teaching in 6th grade are not part of the new standards with the exception of heat energy. The new standards are very environmentally heavy and move from talking about microbes, heat, light, sound energy, space and astronomy to mostly global warming and human impact on the environment. My concern about this move in 6th grade is two-fold. First, the concepts currently being taught in 6th grade are exciting to the students. They are engaged in the many hands on labs that naturally fit with the current standards. This piques an interest in the sciences that is healthy and strong for students moving into secondary education. In my opinion the new proposed standards are not exciting topics for 11 and 12 year-olds, nor are the students mature enough at this age to sift through all the information and misinformation that is out there about global warming (One of the performance tasks required in the new drafts). It’s not that I don’t think students should learn about these topics, it’s that I don’t believe it should be in the 6th grade curriculum. I think it’s important to note this because I believe the Next Generation Science Standards were not written by anyone who has spent the last 20 years in a room full of 6th graders. If we are trying to prepare students for future science and engineering jobs, adding performance tasks and engineering objectives to the current content would seem much more appropriate to me. This could easily be done if the new standards were truly written by a team of Utah teachers, Utah college professors, and Utah scientists with input from Utah parents. Second, changing the content so drastically puts a huge financial strain on Utah 6th grade teachers. Elementary level teachers are not given a budget for science, (even if they teach in a middle school setting). ALL 6th grade teachers in the state of Utah will have to start over buying science lab materials using money from their own pockets.

Lastly, my biggest concern with the NGSS is that key science concepts are missing that will leave gaps in learning. Why is matter and energy repeated throughout 6th-8th grade as almost an overkill of that subject whereas other key science concepts are completely removed from the new standards. This is very concerning to me as a 6th grade science teacher. Please talk to more science teachers around the state about their opinions of the proposed drafts. I am sure there are more than you think that believe adopting the NGSS is not the direction we should be going.

Thank you for your time to read and consider my thoughts,

Dana Wilde

Morgan Middle School 6th Grade Science Teacher

Morgan County School District


Dear Mr. Norton

My name is _____ I am an elementary teacher in southern Utah. In the past I have taught 5th/6th grade science. I am only a part time teacher so you can understand that I would be concerned with the State superintendent knowing my name so I would appreciate it if you removed my name when you passed this on to him.

Dear Superintendent Smith,

I have taught 6th grade science for the past two years, the new science standards that Utah is trying to adopt are not a good fit for Utah. I and at least one other 6th grade teacher that I know of, did the survey and expressed our concern for the new standards. So your understanding that most science teachers like the new science standards which come from the NGSS is incorrect.

I have several problems with the NGSS that are listed below.

1) They are a one size fits all set of standards, they do not take in consideration Utah’s unique geology, agricultural economy, & its people.

2) They have severl political standards such as “6.2.4: Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century”, “6.4.1: Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment” and “6.4.3: Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth’s systems”. These are very odd requirements to put in a 6th grade science standards. These belongs in a college level environmental debate class not in a 6th grade classroom.

3) I have seen the other NGSS standards for the lower grades and they do not allow a teacher to delve deep into each concept. They require a very shallow teaching of the standards. I understand that the theory behind this is that each year will build on the previous year. That is not how younger minds work. Students need an understanding that they can take with them to high school. They need to be exposed to the basics of many different sciences. If we did a scope & sequence that would work better then this.

4) The man who brought us this, Brett Moulding, is the same man who brought us the last set of standards that everyone complains about. If the last set of standards were not acceptable why would we take his word that these ones would be any better.

5) I know that many people are circumspect about the Fordham Institute report on the NGSS Standards but isn’t it worth a second look. This report for 2013 states that Utah’s current science standards are superior to the NGSS that the USOE is considering. Why can’t there be an open debate between representatives on both sides? Instead of just shoving one opinion to the side. That goes against scientific inquiry. All sides must be heard before an assessment can be made. Here is the link to that report http://edex.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/publication/pdfs/20130612-NGSS-Final-Review_7.pdf

These 5 reasons are just scratching the surface about what I feel is wrong with the new Utah science standards, but i know that you are a busy man so I thought these would be worth thinking about. I am doing this anonymously because of the tensions that are surrounding this and other common core standards. I don’t have faith that those of us that have a different opinion will be allowed to voice our opinions without repercussions. I love teaching, I love helping young people discover their potential but these standards are stiffing my ability to do just that. I will never sabotage my students learning for a political agenda but I think that we all want the same thing. We want what is best for our students so we need to come together and figure that out. It would be hard, long, & arduous but worth it in the end. Thank you for your time.

Southern Utah 6th grade teacher

2 thoughts on “Letters from Science Teachers to Sup. Smith”

  1. Seven Scientific Reasons Why Darwinian Evolution Should Be Challenged in Public Schools

    The Utah State Board of Education is currently seeking public feedback on education standards for science. Since the Board is proposing to adopt Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS—the equivalent of Common Core for science), I feel compelled—as the author of a new book about groundbreaking science which challenges mainstream science—to share my knowledge about this important subject.

    NGSS would teach students that Darwinian evolution is fact, even though new science is challenging it. While it is a fact that adaptive evolution does occur in living organisms (easily proved), Darwinian evolution claims that all life on earth evolved via increasingly complex biological information which came about solely through random genetic mutation and natural selection. Despite what we are taught in public schools, on the Internet, and by the Federal Government, there is no hard proof that Darwinian evolution actually occurs!

    The following seven points explain why challenges to Darwinian evolution should be taught in our public schools—

    1. A massive mutation/selection experiment failed. During the 20th century, a host of PhD scientists spent several decades mutagenizing millions of plants, then screening them for crop improvements—essentially accelerating the timeframe for Darwinian theory to be demonstrated scientifically. After billions of such mutations were performed, virtually no meaningful crop improvements resulted! Instead, millions of sterile, deformed, aberrant plants were produced. The rare successes came from loss of biological information and function—not from creating new biological information. In contrast, utilizing pre-existing, natural variation for crop improvements was highly successful.

    2. There is growing evidence that Darwin was wrong. I can provide links to 75 peer-reviewed, scientific papers published in highly respected science journals that make this case. In fact, one of them is titled, “Darwin was Wrong.”

    3. Despite mainstream science’s claim that virtually all scientists believe in Darwinian evolution, more than 1000 PhD scientists are skeptical of Darwinian evolution. In fact, at least 946 of them have signed A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism—“We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.”

    4. Our current understanding of DNA demands it. A landmark symposium held at Cornell University in 2011 for PhD scientists resulted in the following statement of consensus: “The enormous amounts of information found within any cell, and the irreducibly complex nature of information systems, can no longer rationally be attributed to just the mutation/selection process. New perspectives are needed that might help us better understand the nature, origin, and maintenance of biological information.”

    5. Genomes of living things are deteriorating, not advancing. Sir Frederick Hoyle, a brilliant mathematician who invented the name Big Bang, said the following about Darwinian evolution: “The aging process shows, indeed, that statements one frequently hears, to the effect that the Darwinian theory is as obvious as the Earth going round the Sun, are either expressions of almost incredible naiveté or they are deceptions … with such widespread evidence of senescence [aging] in the world around us, it still seems amazing that so many people think it ‘obvious’ that the biological system as a whole should be headed in the opposite direction.”

    6. The fossil record shows stasis, not evolution. Darwinian theory claims that transitional predecessors existed during the evolution of a new species; however, essentially no such transitional fossils have been found in the fossil record. Instead, the fossil record shows stasis (little or no evolutionary change) of species. Because of these truths, Dr. S. J. Gould admitted—”All paleontologists know that the fossil record contains precious little in the way of intermediate forms; transitions between major groups are characteristically abrupt.”

    7. Mainstream science can only give unsatisfactory explanations of the Great Unconformity and the Cambrian Explosion. The gap in geologic time represented by the Great Unconformity [sudden appearance of fossil-bearing sedimentary rock strata above older, non-fossil-bearing igneous and metamorphic rock] still has no conclusive explanation by mainstream science. Likewise, the Cambrian Explosion [sudden appearance in the fossil record of complex animal life with no transitional fossils preceding it] still has no conclusive explanation by mainstream science and remains a mystery. Darwin admitted himself in Origin of the Species by Means of Natural Selection that the Cambrian Explosion could be a serious objection to his theory of evolution.

    Notice that the word religion does not appear in anything that I have written above.

    I believe our public schools should be teaching both the strengths and weaknesses of Darwinian evolution, essentially providing academic freedom in science to our precious students. The following States have adopted such an approach to science education: Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Minnesota, Texas, New Mexico, Alabama, Missouri, Mississippi, Wisconsin (Grantsburg County), Tennessee, and Louisiana (Ouachita Parish). Isn’t it time for Utah to join their ranks?

    1. Gary, may I ask where you got the information regarding how Missouri teaches evolution in science? I am a parent currently seated on a work group convened to develop secondary science standards for Missouri. Our group is simply rewording a few things here and there in the NGSS and about to hand it off to our state board for approval or rejection. I have stood against anything to do with NGSS as I have been researching it nearly every day since being appointed to the work group. I also have been fighting against the CCSSI for 4 years. They are putting out surveys to “get feedback” from Missourians. I know that the whole work group thing, including these surveys, is a Delphi dog and pony show designed to make it appear that citizens have input when they have zero. The predetermined outcome of our department of education is to advance the CCSSI in every way, encompassing all the other subjects as soon as they can. So even if Missouri has a sound science education policy, that is about to go the way of sane education in general. I will appreciate your response. Toni

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