NGSS adoption update

"Five US states have adopted science education standards that recommend introducing two highly charged topics — climate-change science and evolution — into classrooms well before high school," reports Nature (July 3, 2013). Maryland and Vermont became the fourth and fifth states to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards, according to Education Week's Curriculum Matters blog (June 25, 2013), apparently with no reported protests over their treatment of evolution and climate change as central scientific topics. Those states join Rhode Island, Kansas, and Kentucky (where the adoption still needs to be approved by the state legislature).

The NGSS, as NCSE's Mark McCaffrey explained at LiveScience (April 5, 2013), are a new set of state science standards based on the National Research Council's A Framework for K-12 Science Education and developed by a consortium including twenty-six states. When they were released in their final version, The New York Times (April 9, 2013) observed, "The climate and evolution standards are just two aspects of a set of guidelines containing hundreds of new ideas on how to teach science. But they have already drawn hostile commentary from conservative groups critical of mainstream scientific thinking."

Such groups have long attacked the teaching of evolution in the public schools. Nature notes, "In the past decade, those who oppose evolution have sought to enact 'academic freedom' laws that would allow creationism to be taught alongside evolution. Increasingly, that sort of legislation also seeks to promote criticism of mainstream climate science," and cites data provided by NCSE, which began to support climate education in 2012. Yet, as Nature observes, "Swift adoption of the guidelines has been surprising but welcome news for many supporters"; NCSE's Minda Berbeco commented, "So far, so good."

What's for the future? In Kentucky, the chair of the Senate education committee is hostile to both evolution and climate education; Robert Bevins, the president of Kentuckians for Science Education, commented, "Kentucky has a love-hate relationship with science" and predicted a hard fight ahead. Elsewhere, twenty-one states are (like Maryland, Vermont, Rhode Island, Kansas, and Kentucky) lead state partners on the NGSS, committed to giving the NGSS serious consideration, and Nature reports, "At least five more states — California, Florida, Maine, Michigan and Washington — may take up the standards in the next few months."