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State panel releases 5 revised school science standards, after lawmakers balked at original version

A state committee of scientists, educators and education officials has released its revised version of five science standards that mention climate change that Idaho lawmakers rejected this year. The five revised standards will go to the state Board of Education for approval in August, and then to the Legislature next January.

Idaho’s state Department of Education received more than 1,000 public comments during a 21-day comment period, plus held six hearings around the state on the standards. Both at the hearings and in the comments submitted, “They were very much supportive of the standards as they were written,” said SDE spokesman Jeff Church. Church said the committee, at a May 12 meeting in Boise, considered all the public comments as it drafted revisions to the standards.

Today, the department released a side-by-side comparison of the five original and revised standards; you can read it here.

Christopher Taylor, the Boise School District’s science, social studies and health coordinator and a member of the committee, told Idaho Education News, “We went through the five that were rejected and we talked a lot about how we want to keep the integrity of the standards. But we did look at legislators’ comments and took out words we knew were hot buttons.”

For example, the committee replaced a reference to rising global temperatures with a phrase referring to change in climate.

“We tried to really listen to the community, and we believe the standards will be excellent standards for our students,” Taylor said. Idaho EdNews reporter Clark Corbin has a full report here.

Angela Hemingway, executive director of the state STEM Action Center and also a member of the committee that reviewed the standards, told Corbin, “We had some phenomenal educators in the room who have been dedicated to this process for the last three years. They are some of the most dedicated educators I have ever worked with, and our kids are lucky to have them in Idaho.”

Idaho state schools Superintendent Sherri Ybarra said in a statement, “I appreciate all the Idahoans who took time to participate in the process. I also want to thank the science standards committee for its hard work this spring and the prior two years as it identified the standards that would support our state’s goal to grow our STEM focus in education to meet the demands of our economy.”

If the state board approves the standards in August as a proposed rule, another public comment period would follow before the standards are finalized and presented to the Legislature.

Lawmakers balked at the five sections among 375 proposed as Idaho’s new school science standards, which hadn’t been updated since 2001. Idaho was the only state in which lawmakers succeeded this year in stripping out standards dealing with climate change from school science standards, the Weather Channel reported last month; six other states saw legislative attempts to change their school science standards, but they failed.

The standards set minimum benchmarks for what students should learn in school each year; they don't prevent schools from teaching additional topics beyond those. However, Idaho EdNews reported that the standards, developed by Idaho teachers for Idaho classrooms, are used by school districts to develop training for teachers and design student assessments. Said Taylor, the Boise School District official, “The standards are really important.”

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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