Science standards committee to follow Legislature’s guidance

State Department of Education officials on Tuesday asked members of new committee rewriting Idaho’s science standards to follow the Legislature’s guidance.

Marilyn Whitney

“The superintendent and  the State Board have been listening to the feedback and concerns of parents, the public and the Legislature regarding the standards,” Deputy Superintendent for Communications and Policy Marilyn Whitney said.

“It is our shared goal to improve the standards and provide our school districts and educators with a set of science standards that have the support of parents, educators and the Legislature.”

Whitney referred members of the new Idaho Content Standards Science Review Committee to a three-page letter that members of the House and Senate education committees signed earlier this year.

Specifically, members of the standards review committee should focus on:

  • Reducing the number and complexity of standards.
  • Ensuring the standards are age-appropriate.
  • Prioritizing the standards.

Committee members asked how they were supposed to determine whether standards are grade appropriate.

The committee includes teachers, higher education professionals, parents and legislators.

SDE officials said this is a process they are all working through, but they want the standards to fit together and build upon each other logically.

Debates over academic standards have played out in four of the past five legislative sessions. The Legislature approved the existing science standards in 2018 after a years-long debate.

Earlier this year, the House Education Committee voted to repeal all academic standards in math, science and English before it was overruled by the Senate Education Committee.

The new science standards committee was one of three the SDE launched this week. The other two are focusing on math and English standards.

Tuesday’s science standards meeting went much smoother than Monday’s inaugural hearing on math standards. Much of the math hearing transpired in secret because SDE officials did not provide the password that was necessary for the public to listen to the meeting. SDE officials provided the passwords in a news release sent out 46 minutes after the meeting began.

This week’s meetings touched off what is expected to be a lengthy and intricate process. The standards committees are expected to come up with proposed new standards in time for the October 2021 State Board of Education meeting. The standards are also expected go before the Legislature in 2022.

Even though the finish line is a long way off, the first draft of new standards could come together in November.

The three review committees are scheduled to meet again in early August.

Clark Corbin

About Clark Corbin

Reporter Clark Corbin has covered Idaho government and education for more than a decade. He’s followed every legislative session, gavel-to-gavel, since 2011. Clark is a co-host of the Extra Credit podcast with Kevin Richert published on Fridays. You can follow him on Twitter: @clarkcorbin. He can be reached by email at [email protected]

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