West Virginia Amends Science Standards, Again, to Reflect Doubt on Climate Change

By Liana Loewus — April 09, 2015 2 min read
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The ongoing feud in West Virginia over the Next Generation Science Standards has ended, for now, with a somewhat surprising decision to amend the standards to satisfy climate-change skeptics.

As I wrote in January, the West Virginia state board initially voted to adopt the science standards but with modified language concerning climate change. School board member Wade Linger spearheaded the push for those edits, saying there’s debate about whether global warming is occuring.

The amended standards included language about the “rise and fall of global temperature[s] over the past century,” rather than just stating that global temperatures “have risen.”

But the board’s modifications were met with heavy pushback from educators and scientists across the state—and soon made national headlines. The board voted to go back to the original standards and put those out to the public for further comments.

Immediately after that vote, Gayle C. Manchin, the president of the state board, told me she expected the original Next Generation Science Standards to pass.

Surprise Move

But that’s not what happened. Yesterday, the board voted to adopt the standards with amendments—though slightly different ones than the previous edits.

The changes again came at the behest of Linger, reports the West Virginia Gazette.

Instead of saying “rise and fall of global temperature[s],” the 6th grade standard now says “changes” in temperatures. And a high school standard that asks students to debate climate changes with regard to greenhouse gases and human actions now also includes the words “natural forces.”

The amended standards were approved 6-2. Manchin voted against them.

The Gazette reports that, while 100 comments are typical for a policy change, the proposed science standards had received more than 7,000 comments. Of those, nearly 6,500 were from individuals and groups that favored adoption of the original standards, with no climate-change edits, the paper says.

It’s worth noting that the school board had undergone changes since it put the science standards back out for comment in January. According to the Charleston Daily Mail, two seats were filled since then—one seat that had been vacant was filled by a member who sided with Linger, and another board member who opposed the changes was replaced by one who did not vote.

Twelve other states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Next Generation Science Standards. Achieve, the group that helped develop the standards, has said states have a right to make revisions. But the National Science Teachers Association has said it will not consider states that make revisions to the standards as adoption states.

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