New science standards on the horizon in Utah

11.02.2017

On November 2, 2017, the Utah state board of education voted 10-4 to begin the process of revising the state science standards for elementary and high school — albeit "[o]ver objections that national science education standards push a political agenda on global warming and do not include instruction of intelligent design as a counterpoint to teaching evolution," according to the Deseret News (November 2, 2017).

The standards in question, according to a report presented to the board, "range from seven to fifteen years old," and contain some "scientifically outdated an[d] irrelevant" content. The report cited "excitement" among Utah science educators for the approach represented by A Framework for K-12 Science Education — the document on which the Next Generation Science Standards are based.

One member of the board who voted against the proposal was quoted as explicitly objecting to the treatment of evolution and climate change in the NGSS: "Really, these national science standards ... have little to do with science and a lot to do with what is politically expedient. … There's a heavy emphasis on global warming. There's a heavy emphasis as evolution as a fact and not as a theory."

As NCSE previously reported, there was controversy over the inclusion of evolution and climate change in a new set of Utah middle school science standards in 2015. A draft was criticized, inter alia, for suggesting that global temperature is constant and for using the phrase "change in species over time" in preference to "evolution." These features were not present in the final version of the standards approved by the board in December 2015.

With the revision process approved, the next step, according to the Deseret News, is "the creation [of] committees to review standards and write possible updates which would be subject to public review and possible adoption by the State School Board. Some of the committee members will be appointed by the president of the Utah Senate and the speaker of the Utah House of Representatives."