State Board of Education Considers What to Do about NGSS: Wyoming Citizens Opposing Common Core Reacts

April 11, 2014 – Casper Wyoming – State Board of Education Meeting

In a meeting characterized both by procedural irregularities and emotion, Wyoming’s State Board of Education ultimately sent the proposed science standards back to the Review Committee for reworking. While unclear how much of the Next Generation Science Standards could be included in the final product, board members voiced a need for A-rated standards that will benefit Wyoming students and be free of controversial assumptions. The committee will be allowed to use the NGSS as a model, but it appeared that using other state standards as models will be expected as well.

Public comment was rearranged on the agenda to allow comments to be heard before the vote on the outcome of the NGSS. A group called Climate Parents, some of whom we believe traveled in from out of state, organized statements to support the NGSS and the teaching of anthropogenic global warming in classrooms, and a teacher brought students to do so as well. However, the students did not appear either personally invested or prepared to articulate that position.

Wyoming Citizens Opposing Common Core also organized statements among participants who could attend the meeting.  Members pointed out that the budget footnote was the correct response of the Legislature to concerned citizens and expressed reasons to push for more academically sound and objective standards than the NGSS. We were joined by Representative Tom Reeder, Representative Lynn Hutchings and Michelle Sabrosky, who also contributed valuable testimony. We so appreciate the time everyone took out of their personal lives to make a strong showing at this meeting.

Several testifying, including both legislators, asserted this meeting or ANY consideration of NGSS, even as a model, is not legal given the budget footnote’s restriction on funds. In spite of this concern, the board proceeded to take action, and in the weeks to come, the legality of is the footnote will likely be investigated.

Some board members were anxious to adopt the NGSS for promulgation in spite of the legislature’s budget footnote “effective immediately” due to their own interpretation of the footnote’s effective date. Some board members like the NGSS and expressed concern we wouldn’t have “21st Century Standards” available immediately for our schools. Others clearly were in favor of making the rejection of the standards the Governor’s problem by forcing him to veto the vote for promulgation, as Mary Kay Hill said she would advise the Governor to do should the state board move forward and adopt these standards. However, the vote to adopt for promulgation ultimately failed this time.

The initial vote to send the standards back to the Review Committee also failed, as did a motion to approve the resolution by the Supervisory Committee members to stop this process and allow school districts to choose their own science standards. There was a great deal of contentious discussion, frustration and consultation with legal counsel during the entire meeting, which even went to executive session at one point. It was clear no one wanted to leave the room having done “nothing”, so it finally came back to a vote to reconsider the motion to send the standards back to the Review Committee, and that motion in the end passed.

It will be crucial now for citizens to monitor this process, participate in opportunities to contribute and be watchful for the necessary changes in the standards. As Mary Kay Hill stated as she outlined the position of the Governor’s office, citizen engagement like this is unprecedented and a great opportunity to have genuine, open discussion and participation. Our state can end up with academically sound standards that stay religiously neutral and scientifically objective and be the best in the country!

Public Comments made to the State Board of Education Meeting on Next Generation Science Standards on 4/11/14

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I’m saddened by some of the media coverage by journalists in our state. Poor reporting causes citizens to misunderstand the true purpose of those speaking against the Next Generation Science Standards. The statements provided by concerned citizens at this meeting are provided for you here:

Chairman Micheli and Members of the Board,

I am Christy Hooley, an educator and mother of three small children.

I represent Wyoming Citizens Opposing Common Core and a member of Citizens for Objective Public Education, (COPE) a national non-profit organization.

COPE has written a thorough analysis of the K-12 Framework and Next Generation Science Standards. In the interest of time I provided the reference to their analysis in my hand out with my full remarks. In short, COPE’s analysis shows that the Framework and Standards are establishing a non-theistic religious worldview within science education.

In September 2013, COPE filed suit in the 10th District Court Appeals, which has jurisdiction over Wyoming, under the premise that NGSS presents a non-theistic religious world view in contradiction to state and federal Constitutional provisions. This lawsuit is still being adjudicated and I suggest it would be wise for Wyoming to wait on the results of the lawsuit before adopting NGSS. A link to this complaint is included in my handout. I appreciate that in the complaint COPE also includes solutions to resolve the problems with NGSS. These solutions focus on the teaching of origins science (the cause and nature of life and the universe); the appropriate developmental stage at which it should be taught, how it should be approached with regards to religious neutrality, and its objective non-dogmatic (including non-atheistic) presentation. I would recommend your reading of such solutions in the handout.

A lawsuit, claiming that a framework and accompanying standards seeks to establish a materialistic/atheistic worldview, throughout a child’s entire 13 year public education experience, is a very serious allegation that shouldn’t be ignored. The thought is chilling as all theistic viewpoints have been intentionally removed from the standards. We are now learning that in its place will be a non-theistic belief system. This is terrifying to a parent that believes in God.

In addition, such teaching of a non-theistic worldview infringes on the religious rights of parents as protected in the 1st amendment of the US Constitution and in Article 7, Section 12 of the Wyoming State Constitution. NGSS forces teachers to instruct students in the non-theistic worldview, regardless of the teachers’ personal beliefs, and such teaching puts young children in a dissonant position of trying to decide whom to trust, parents or teachers. As John Goodlad has stated, in Developing Democratic Character in the Youth, “Public education has served as a check on the power of parents, and this is another powerful reason for maintaining it.” This statement speaks to exactly what the creators of the Framework and NGSS are creating. A check on parents!
Additionally, our state legislature has gone on record expressing its lack of confidence in the NGSS and explicitly added a footnote to the budget immediately restricting use of state funds to further adoption or implementation of NGSS. I believe it is the State Board of Education’s duty to follow the letter and spirit of that footnote and to do otherwise would be insubordination as the operates under the legislature’s direction.

My hope is that if you still consider adopting the Framework and NGSS that you first invite COPE and other knowledgeable educators and scientists to explain the problems in more detail and consider alternative solutions.

You as directors of a public body, have a duty of due diligence. The COPE suit triggers a need for you to seriously and objectively investigate the claims of that complaint before you act.

Christy Hooley
WCOCC/WAC/COPE

My name is Elizabeth Bingham and I am from Sweetwater County.
I am here today, so I can be on record to share my concerns with respect to the science standards and the NGSS.
In last month’s meeting, an exhaustive discussion about the budget amendment footnote took place, and it was suggested that you might pass the NGSS anyway and “wait to see what happens”. This is very disturbing. As one of the parents who asked my elected representatives to vote for the budget amendment, YOU as an appointed board, have no right to take away my representation.
The footnote clearly states, no money shall be expended for review or adoption of NGSS and it is effective immediately. This does not mean, beginning the first day of the next fiscal year, it means at once, instantly, without any intervening time.
I caution you in using the “wait and see” approach, not only do I feel it is inherently wrong, but I think a lawsuit will follow. The public (that you are appointed to represent) is awake to this nonsense, and is in no mood to see any more money thrown at this approach.
During the discussion about developing new science standards and the overlap with NGSS, a board member stated something to the effect of “Let me read a standard: The sun warms the Earth. How are we going to avoid adopting standards that say that?” This kind of discussion is deliberately pointless and brings the problem solving process to a halt. We, the people, expect a thoughtful and intelligent approach to solving problems. It is not difficult to understand that any material that is not specifically developed by Achieve can be used in developing science standards.
NGSS is no different from Common Core.
The copyrighted NGSS states: Alteration of any language in the standards is considered non-permissible. Is this the real reason, after alleged hours spent in committee, why modifications haven’t been made?
We want a common sense approach to developing standards that are balanced, accurate and without a hidden agenda. We don’t want to be bound to something that continues on the path of diminishing our sovereignty over education.
I didn’t come here today in my horse and buggy nor am I a member of the Flat Earth Society. I love science, science is everywhere and in everything we do. I simply believe in the fundamental rights of parents and want facts taught as facts, and theories taught as theories.
If we really have such abysmal science standards, and that is the reason for the urgency to adopt NGSS, why wasn’t this taken care of in 2008? Why were the changes in 2008 insignificant? Who is going to be fired or have the ethical decency to claim responsibility for teaching children sub-par science standards for over ten years?
Starting fresh, with an improved process, is not the overwhelming task that some of you are making it seem. I would argue, that with the collective intellect, education, talent, work backgrounds and life experience of all of the members of these committees, boards etc. that you can develop the BEST science standards in the nation and make Wyoming a leader in education. That is, if you choose to stop following everyone else in pursuing a one size, fits all, prepackaged bill of goods that is being peddled to the states.
I want Wyoming to have the best science standards, but I also want Wyoming to OWN them.

NGSS, Bottom Line on “Public Comment”

My name is Cynthia McKee. I live in Savery, where I’m a partner in a cattle ranch and the mother of two school-aged children.

I am one of the many constituents who have been communicating with lawmakers and in particular, my representatives in Wyoming legislature, sharing my concerns over Common Core, our commitment to data collection and sharing, and the Next Generation Science Standards. After a year now of intense work and research, after countless hours and for some, great personal sacrifice, there is finally one tangible result.

This budget amendment you are dealing with now did not appear out of nowhere. It is not something to be averted by rebranding, or avoided on a legal technicality. It represents the proper workings of a republic. Enough constituents spoke up to cause the legislature to intervene in this process. And I am glad they did!

Whether the NGSS are right or wrong to adopt, the legislature did its job by forcing us all to take a closer look at alternatives to something too many Wyoming residents have legitimate concerns over. We expect your proper response to legislature’s restriction.

You will likely be told today that not adopting the NGSS is a bad idea, that Wyoming is “anti-science” if we don’t, that the objections are merely “political”.

Let’s talk facts. The NGSS are weak – we can’t use them to put together a high school chemistry or physics class. How does THAT prepare our kids for STEM careers? The adoption of the NGSS face a serious legal challenge in Kansas, very likely headed to circuit court, whose decision we will have to abide by. The NGSS also promote a very negative view on the use of natural resources and assume unverified theories as fact.

You may hear today that 97% of scientists agree that man’s activities cause global warming, and therefore we need that perspective assumed in these standards, even though there is substantial evidence to the contrary. The only problem is, consensus is not a scientific value – it’s a political value. Remember, scientists also used to agree that the sun revolved around the earth. Evidence proved them wrong. The teaching and learning of science needs to be characterized by unfettered examination and analysis of evidence, not indoctrination.

You have this dilemma before you, in part, because many Wyoming stakeholders in education feel burned by what they feel was a stealth initiative when it comes to adoption of the Common Core. I am aware that most members of this board defend both the process in place and its adherence to it. The process, we are told, involves parents, community members, teachers, and the public. With this in mind, I have one question about the public comment period, because this is where I can participate.

Even though I, and no one I knew, had a clue what Common Core was or that a public comment period was going on at the time, there were a significant number of people who spoke against their adoption. The Common Core was still adopted, so obviously there weren’t enough. What I want to know is, how much objection is enough? 50%? 60%? 75% of people testifying? Have you ever thought about that? Is it in writing somewhere?

If public comment really matters, then that number should be known so the public is aware of its precise impact on standards adoption. Citizens need to not only know that public comment is taken, but that their input is more than a mere exercise, a check box at the end of a list that the State Board can say its’ completed. They need to know for certain that public comment is not only accepted, but has impact on the outcome.

I encourage you to examine this process with humble hearts, and look forward to an answer to this vital question.

Thank you.

 

There were several other parents that also gave comments against NGSS.  I will post those as I receive permsisson to do so.