NGSS moves forward in Kentucky

Today, the KY Board of Education released a summary of comments and a response that no changes will be made to the NGSS. This basically means they feel the NGSS are ready for KY to adopt them as the KY Core Academic Standards for Science. This bit of good news came out a few days before I expected to see it, making it even more exciting. Just over two weeks ago (July 23rd), the KY Board of Education held a hearing to accept public commentary regarding the incorporation of the Next Generation Science Standards into Kentucky’s education standards. In fact, the Board was accepting written commentary through the entire month. I’m quite impressed they were able to produce their Statement of Consideration (a summary of the commentary and the Board’s response to it) so quickly after the close of the commentary period, and that it is so thorough in its response to all the arguments offered regarding the NGSS.

The NGSS include two items that are controversial on a political level, but not among scientists. Those two things, easily guessed, are climate change and evolution.

The objections against the inclusion of these subjects in public education were ones with which many of us are already very familiar. Fact vs theory. Arguments based on quotes from respected scientists taken out of context. Claims made by pseudoscientists offered as legitimate evidence. The board listened to both sides and determined that both evidence and legal precedent were on the side of moving the standards forward.

Thanks to the hard work of educators, scientists, religious leaders and concerned citizens, a flood of misinformation was met calmly with facts, evidence, and the simple declaration that not all Kentuckians are threatened by science.

I’m proud to say that Kentuckians for Science Education was at the forefront of this discussion. We helped alert colleges and universities, public and private, religious and secular, to this debate. We asked teachers and parents to ask the board to do the right thing. We contacted faith communities that see no conflict between science and religion, or prefer that the government not attempt to teach religion in the school system. We encouraged both working scientists and people working in scientific fields to explain the importance of a good science education, stressing the need for students to understand the central concept in biology, and that our actions as a species seven billion strong can have global consequences. Leaders from industry told the board that they not only wanted a better educated, more scientifically literate workforce, but that they needed it.

This is one victory. There will be more long meetings and letter writing campaigns. Political theater will be played. Groups opposed to students learning quality science are already planning out the next several years, discussing lawsuits, legislative tricks and tactics, and even attacking public education at the level of the state budget.

We will be there to remind the state government that public education is an investment. We will be there to remind the state government that it has a duty to provide students with the best education it can. We will be there to make certain that the state government is informed on scientific matters and understands the value of academic integrity as part of academic freedom.

Thank you to all who helped us reach this important day. There will be many more important days in the weeks and months ahead. With all of us working so strongly together, we can improve science education standards and support educators in the implementation of these standards. We are already forming a statewide community of those who support the teaching of evidence-based science within public schools. Well done!

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About Robert Bevins

I am a toxicologist/cell biologist, and am preparing a downloadable study guide for biology students, and in the past have taught at Georgetown College as both part time and full time faculty. The views expressed here are my own.
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