New Montana Science Standards State-Led, NGSS Aligned

(Photo: Pixabay, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Pixabay, Creative Commons)

Montana Office of Public Instruction's Director of Content Standards and Instruction Jael Prezeau has explained that the state's new science standards will have local roots despite being closely aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) developed in 2013 by a 26-member group appointed by the state. The newly proposed curriculum has been approved by the Board of Public Education and validated by industry and education organizations including ExxonMobil.

Larry Mayer, reporting for the Missoulian, writes that state education groups have hailed the proposal for encouraging critical thinking and for being more rigorous. The change has also had its share of controversy, especially because it links climate change to the activities of human beings and it approaches evolution factually.

The committees who wrote the new standards looked at 17 states' science models, according to Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau. She was asked about the new design's relationship to the Next Generation Science Standards:

"That was one of the resources that they looked at," she said. "There was tons of opportunity for people to have input into this. At the end of the day, whatever the draft looks like, that's what it reflects."

The curriculum director for Lewistown, Montana, Scott Dubbs, who participated in the writing of the new standards, called them "Montana's take on what we think is important in NGSS."

State officials may be wary of comparing the new standards to NGSS because in 2014 when Wyoming education leaders signed off on NGSS, the state legislature virtually eliminated the measures by refusing any funding to research or adopt NGSS. Some legislators from coal-producing Wyoming were against wording that referred to climate change and blamed humans as the primary reason for it.

The budget funding ban has been lifted, and school districts in the state seem to be free to choose the science curricula they wish to adopt.

Former Lieutenant Governor and Chair of the Montana Board of Regents Angela McLean, who now works for the Commissioner of Higher Education, said the members of the committees who created the proposed state standards were brave, and she praised them for doing so.

Laurel, Montana is home to the conservative Montana Family Foundation, a nonprofit that often advocates against federal education policy. The group is well-known anti-Common Core standard-bearer in the state. But Laurel Superintendent Linda Filpula says her district will follow what the state curriculum requires.

Carolyn Dwyer, writing for Community Financial News, quoted Missoula County Public Schools Superintendent Mark Than:

"What we would like to do is work from an evidence-based approach and encourage students to learn to be consumers of the information and to critically think and evaluate and use evidence to make judgments."

The new model addresses what pupils should know by the end of 4th and 8th grades, and by the time they graduate from high school. The proposal points out that the standards will be grouped by elementary grade levels, middle school, and high school, says KFBB-TV's Nyree Knox.

The new curriculum will define what Montana students need to learn and at what age. Individual schools will retain the ability to determine the exact lessons and materials used in their classrooms.

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