The West Virginia Board of Education voted 6-2 Thursday to adopt an amended set of science standards for West Virginia schools. The amendments came at the request of Board member and previous Board President Wade Linger.
The controversy over the Next Generation Science Standards began in December of last year when Linger moved to amend the standards about climate change. At the time, Linger said he didn't believe human influence on the global change was a "foregone conclusion."
At that meeting, state Board members voted to return the standards to a 30-day public comment period instead of voting on the proposed amendments. The move came at the suggestion of the state's Chief Academic Officer Clayton Burch.
During Thursday's meeting, Burch and his staff presented the results of that comment period to the full Board. The Department of Education received nearly 7,000 comments and, of those, about 6,500 were positive, in support of the standards as written and adapted by West Virginia teachers.
After hearing the results, Linger again moved to amend the standards in three ways, however, the changes he proposed were less severe than those presented to the Board during their December meeting.
Those amendments include:
- Moving a sentence from the body of the standards into their introduction for emphasis that reads, "There is deliberative sequencing of objectives (based on programmatic level) to ensure students will develop skills to acknowledge and distinguish claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, support arguments either claims or counterclaims with evidence, and communicate about science related topics/issues in a knowledgeable, clear and objective manner."
- Modifying standard S.6.ESS.6 to say "Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the change in global temperature over the past century," rather than "rise in global temperature."
- Modify standard S.HS.ENV.17 to add "natural forces" as an area of study for the possible causes of the change.
All three amendments were adopted by the Board. Board President Gayle Manchin and member Dr. William White both voted against the amended standards.
White told the board changing the standards would risk West Virginia's alignment with 13 other states who have adopted the Next Generation Science Standards. Manchin agreed with his assessment.
"I said from the very beginning I supported the standards as written by our science teachers in West Virginia and as approved by the National Academy of Science and that if any changes were made that effected that content in any way, I did not feel I could support it," Manchin said after the meeting.
Linger said after the meeting he did not think the state should feel obligated to align with such a small group of states.
Manchin said while she did not support the changes, she doesn't feel they make substantial changes to the science standards moving forward, only broaden the scope of information students will look at in the classroom.
Manchin also said she did not feel the change would impact student test scores. Those standardized tests are aligned with the Next Generation Standards as adopted in other states.