The State Board of Education is asking the Wyoming Department of Education to stop work on development of a new set of science standards.
The Department recently formed a science standards review committee of about 50 teachers, administrators, higher education representatives and businesspeople to develop new science standards. That group was supposed to meet several times this summer before presenting suggestions to the Board and public in the fall.
But at a meeting Tuesday in Rawlins, the Board—which is in charge of approving standards for K-12 schools—voted to shut down that process. Board members said they weren’t certain the group would be able to come up with quality standards—because of a budget footnote that bars them reviewing the Next Generation Science Standards in their process.
“Without the opportunity to take a look at the Next Generation Science Standards, we’re not convinced that our work, as our state, and with that standards committee—can move forward in helping to create the best standards,” said Board member Walt Wilcox. “Our recommendation to the Department is to suspend that work.”
In March, Governor Matt Mead signed off on the budget footnote blocking the Next Generation Science Standards, which were developed by a coalition of states and science education organizations. Legislators who sponsored the amendment objected to how they address the human impact on global climate change.
All but one Board member voted Tuesday to suspend the newly-formed standards committee.
Hugh Hageman says he thinks the committee could come up with quality benchmarks—even without considering the Next Generation Science Standards.
“Students deserve a new set of standards,” Hageman said. “[The Wyoming Department of Education] did a lot of work putting a committee together and we didn’t give the committee a chance to come up with standards and look at them to see whether we liked them or not.”
Board Chairman Ron Micheli says the the next steps would be for lawmakers to put those standards back on the table—not to be adopted wholesale, but to be considered as Wyoming works to develop modern standards.
“Let the legislature deal with that footnote if they desire.,” Micheli said. “If not, I think that’s pretty clear direction that we are going to just sit tight for the time being. We’ll have to check the will of the Board and the will of the people, but—as of right now—I think we all just need to step back and take a breath.”
In the meantime, Micheli says, districts will rely on state standards set in 2008. Or, if they choose, they can move forward with standards that exceed those required by the state.