The House Education Committee heard a presentation on the modified Idaho science standards on Tuesday, followed by additional testimony and questions. Scott Cook of the State Department of Education made the initial presentation, which was followed by testimony from members of the Science Standards Committee that developed the standards, including IEA member and 2016 Idaho Teacher of the Year Melyssa Ferro, who served as co-chair.
Ferro indicated that the committee was able to bring a much stronger document to the legislature this year as a result of public feedback and a re-examination of the priorities of the standards. She emphasized a shift in pedagogy and a focus on performance-based instruction. “Science is a verb,” she told the committee. “We want our students to ‘do’ science.”
Last year the legislature rejected the new standards, citing both process concerns and concern over topics such as climate change and the age of the earth. As a result, the standards unveiled Tuesday include some modifications:
- Removal of the term “global warming”. “Climate change” is used instead.
- Adding natural causes of climate change.
- Removal of the word “significantly” as it relates to human activity impacting climate change.
- Removal of the approximate age of the earth (4.6 billion years), instead allowing students to come to their own conclusions through a research-based process.
- Defining the Big Bang Theory as “the current scientific theory of the origin of the universe”.
- Development of a glossary of terms.
The proposed standards fit in the category of a temporary rule. If approved by both the House and Senate Education Committees, they would be in force for the 2017-18 school year, with a more permanent change likely to come before the legislature in the next session. If the temporary rule is rejected, Idaho would revert back to previous science standards, which were updated in 2001. The House Education Committee is expected to vote on the proposed standards later this week. You can read the proposed standards here, starting on page 53.
IEA Responds to Confirmation of DeVos as Education Secretary
The U.S. Senate confirmed the nomination of Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary by the narrowest of margins, with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking vote. The vote was largely along party lines, with Republican Senators, many of whom have received substantial campaign contributions from DeVos and her family, overlooking the obvious deficiencies in DeVos’ qualifications.
IEA President Penni Cyr had the following statement regarding the confirmation of DeVos:
“The bottom line is that Idaho’s students, parents, teachers and communities deserve an Education Secretary who is both qualified and supportive of public schools. Betsy DeVos is neither, which is why her confirmation today is wrong on so many levels. As evidenced by the massive outcry in opposition to her nomination, Idahoans and Americans have legitimate reasons to be concerned about her intentions and efficacy in the position.
Thank you to all the people who stood up for public education and contacted elected officials with concerns about DeVos. IEA members have been at the forefront of opposing detrimental people and policies, and we know they can be counted upon to take critical action going forward. Your efforts are greatly appreciated.
DeVos has zero experience with public education and, in fact, has worked to sabotage public schools at every turn. Her unfamiliarity with even the basics of education was evident in her Senate hearing and could have disastrous consequences as she takes on the important responsibilities of Education Secretary. DeVos has a long track record of questionable ethics and conflicts of interest, including substantial contributions to many of the Senators who confirmed her and ties to companies with a financial interest in privatizing public schools.
The basic premise of opportunity for every child, regardless of circumstance, is the foundation of our public school system. This premise could be seriously jeopardized by the confirmation of Betsy DeVos. We hope that she has been paying attention to the criticisms surrounding her candidacy, and will move forward with an approach that keeps her in touch with every day Idahoans looking for access and opportunity, not one that caters to her billionaire social circles and corporate interests.”
–Penni Cyr, IEA President
The National Education Association also issued a press release, including quotes from NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia.