Idaho’s K-12 Science Standards are back in focus after the Chairs and Vice Chairs of the House and Senate Education Committees sent a letter on May 3 to the Idaho State Department of Education (SDE) asking for a significant revision.

The good news is that you’ll have an opportunity to weigh in with your comments before the June 1, 2021 deadline.

So, what’s going on?

Science Standards have been the target of the House Education Committee for years based on concerns with the age of the Earth, the inclusion of climate change, human impacts on the environment, and more.

Despite the fact that a committee of parents, educators, administrators, legislators, and others spent months poring over every word in the standards in 2020 and 2021, it still wasn’t enough. The letter submitted to the SDE this week continues to call for significant changes to the science, as well as, math and English standards, which have also been the focus of an extensive review process. 

There was a some good news with regards to their position on Supporting Content, which is a fundamental component of the science standards. The letter states, “some requests from the House and Senate Education Committees were problematic [last year]…We recommend including the supporting content…” This is a major achievement and something that scientists, educators, parents, and business leaders have been prioritizing for years.

While that was a singular bright spot, the rest of the direction was less helpful. Specifically, the letter from House and Senate Education Committee Chairmen Rep. Lance Clow (R-Twin Falls) and Sen. Steven Thayn (R-Emmett), along with Vice-Chairs Rep. Ryan Kerby (R-New Plymouth) and Sen. Carl Crabtree (R-Grangeville) says:

“There is excessive emphasis on the performance of tasks [in science]”

“We believe many of these performance requirements are above grade level for the early years.”

“There is still an emphasis on ecology and environment.”

“The fundamental premise of our physical world is not addressed in the [standards]…the four steps of the scientific method are never even mentioned…”

In reality, the scientific method is all about the doing of science, and the performance of tasks are critical components in the exploration and curiosity that IS science! Further, memorizing the 7 steps of the scientific method might’ve been what they did in biology class when they were in school, but times have changed. Our standards need to change with the times.

What are the legislators suggesting?

The letter calls on the SDE to bring together “a group of compensated individuals…to rewrite the content standards…[and] include people who understand current issues with the [standards].”

What this appears to mean is that a select committee of current and former teachers, who share the views of the House Education Committee, should be paid taxpayer dollars to rewrite these standards. Ironically, despite the fact that the committee calls for the depoliticization of the standards, that’s exactly what they’re doing! Further, the committee has also emphasized that the local districts must have control over curriculum, but the letter directs the SDE to strike test questions, remove reading lists, and make other detailed edits that appear to limit local control.

Where will it end and what can you do?

Thankfully, despite the opposition from the House Education Committee in the past, the SDE and the State Board of Education have consistently supported approval of the standards, in full, including supporting content. But that outcome is far from certain this time.

The SDE and Board need to hear that you support strong standards and want to ensure that science standards are kept whole. We need your help!

Take a moment to sign the petition to the SDE and the State Board of Education.

And if you want to hear the long story of how we got here…here’s some additional background.  

Why is it important?

If you care about a well-informed citizenry, which includes a solid educational foundation based on scientific principles, we encourage you to add your voice in support of Idaho’s science standards.

Idaho is already losing out. More than 7,000 science-related jobs are going unfilled in Idaho because we don’t have the candidates to fill those positions. That hurts our economy and costs us millions.

If you care about Idaho’s future and our children’s science education, take action today!