‘Pushback’ to the Common Science Standards: Real or Overblown?

By Liana Loewus — May 20, 2014 2 min read
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In March, as we reported, Wyoming became the second state to block the adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards. South Carolina blocked adoption legislatively in the summer of 2012.

Over the last couple weeks, several articles have come out suggesting that differing views on climate change are causing a divide over the science standards, using Wyoming as a case study.

An Associated Press article linked Wyoming’s rejection of the standards to the state’s economic reliance on fossil fuels. It quoted state Rep. Matt Teeters, a Republican, as saying of man-made climate change, “I think those concepts should be taught in science; I just think they should be taught as theory and not as scientific fact.” And Amy Edmonds, of the Wyoming Liberty Group, a libertarian think tank, told the AP that teaching “one view of what is not settled science about global warming” is one of many problems with the standards.

The AP article went so far as to say that “the global warming and evolution components [of the science standards] have created pushback around the country.” (It also incorrectly stated Wyoming was the first state to reject the standards.)

A New York Times story over the weekend echoed the AP article, also citing the state’s economic stake in coal and oil as reasons for the rejection and also quoting Teeters and Edmonds.

But is the “pushback” really a burgeoning movement against the science standards, or is it simply the opinions of a vocal few being overblown? Are there many more opponents to the science standards than those being recycled in news stories?

And if the language on fossil fuels is causing the divide, why have major oil companies—ExxonMobile and Chevron, for instance—made public shows of their support for the standards?

The common-core backlash is, it seems clear at this point, both real and gaining momentum. As my colleagues have pointed out, Indiana reversed its adoption of the standards and several more states are considering the same. Much of the ire is directed at the assessments being developed by two federally funded consortia. But the pushback is also bipartisan, geographically diverse, and coming from a variety of stakeholders—from teachers to academics to parents to politicians.

The mood around the science standards does seem different. Only 11 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the science standards so far, and most say that’s because they’re tied up implementing the Common Core State Standards, not because they’re experiencing resistance.

In writing about the Next Generation Science Standards, it’s been altogether tough to find science teachers and professors who aren’t in favor of implementing them. Parents and politicians tend to know less about them, at this point. The Thomas B. Fordham Institute is one of the only nationally known education organizations to have reliably come out in criticism of them (and even there, the group still gives the standards a middling C grade).

Maybe the difference between the science standards and the common core is simply a lack of awareness. Or maybe the difference is the lack of assessments—high-stakes tests for the science standards could very well change people’s moods. Or maybe it’s that teachers felt more included in the science standards-writing process than they did with the common core.

Or maybe I’m off altogether and you’re hearing plenty of pushback in your state. Please do let me know in the comments box below.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.