Public testimony has concluded at today’s Senate Education Committee hearing on school science standards; fourteen people testified, all strongly in favor of adopted the revised standards as presented by the state Board of Education, rather than deleting parts. The Senate committee won’t vote on the standards today; Chairman Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, said that vote will be taken later.
Committee Vice Chairman Steven Thayn, R-Emmett, who is presiding over the rules hearing, asked state Department of Education official Duncan Robb to also address the standards and supporting content, while saying, “We obviously have a well-informed populace.”
Robb told the senators, “The department and the superintendent stands behind the recommendation 100 percent. … Every piece and line in this document has the full weight and support of the State Department of Education, the full weight and support of the superintendent of public instruction.” Robb said state Superintendent Sherri Ybarra would have been speaking, but asked him to speak for her because she's participating in a State Board of Education meeting this afternoon.
“The supporting content is there, to my understanding, as a really critical bridge, from the old way of teaching science – rote fact memorization – to this new inquiry-based way of teaching science," Robb said.. "Because we’re making this transition, the supporting content is critical.”
Robb added, “If this body were to concur with the House, all this information would not vanish into thin air. However, the document that’s before you has the full weight and support of the superintendent, because it’s what those educators who have been working on this for three years chose to recommend to the Legislature.”
Sen. Lori DenHartog, R-Meridian, said, “I’m concerned that we as a legislature are asked to legislate content. ... I don’t believe that that’s our role.” She said that “makes me exceedingly nervous.”
Robb drew a distinction between content and curriculum. “In no way does the state department feel that it’s our role, or that it’s the Legislature’s role, to dictate curriculum,” he said. But they do, he said, believe it’s important to “say what it is Idaho students should know in 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th grade once they finish a course in science, just like with math and with English language arts.” That’s the purpose of school content standards, he said.