The West Virginia state board of education adopted a new set of state science standards largely based on the Next Generation Science Standards on April 9, 2015 — "but," the Charleston Gazette (April 9, 2015) explains, "not without adding in changes suggested by board member Wade Linger to the teaching of global warming."
Where a standard originally called for middle school students to "ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperature over the past century" — which would include the burning of fossil fuels — the revised standard asks them about "the change in global temperature."
And where a standard for a high school environmental science class (not based on the NGSS) asked students to "[d]ebate climate changes as it [sic] relates to greenhouse gases, human changes in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, and relevant laws and treaties," the revised standard adds a reference to "natural forces."
"These aren't useful changes," commented NCSE's Minda Berbeco. "They make the standards less precise and they seem intended to open the classroom door a crack to climate change denial. But they are mostly harmless — especially compared to Linger's previous attempts to undermine the treatment of climate change in the standards."
As NCSE previously reported, in December 2014, before the new standards, based on the Next Generation Science Standards, were adopted, the material on climate change was quietly revised to downplay the scientific consensus at the behest of Linger, who later told the Gazette (December 28, 2014), "We're on this global warming binge going on here."
As a result, where the NGSS called for high school students to "[a]nalyze geoscience data and the results from global climate models to make an evidence-based forecast of the current rate of global or regional climate change and associated future impacts to Earth systems," for example, the revised standard asked them to assess the "creditability" (sic) of such data.
Even more strikingly, where the NGSS called for middle school students to "ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperature over the past century" — which would include the burning of fossil fuels — the revised standard asked them about "the rise and fall in global temperature."
Condemnation of the revisions came from NCSE — whose Mark McCaffrey contributed a column to the Gazette (January 4, 2015) — as well as from the West Virginia Science Teachers Association, faculty at West Virginia University, Citizens Climate Lobby, Climate Parents, and the National Science Teachers Association.
In January 2015, following a recommendation from the state department of education, the board voted to revert to the original version of the sections addressing climate science. During the ensuing public comment period, the vast majority of comments received were in favor of adopting the standards, according to the Gazette (April 6, 2015).
Linger's new amendments were adopted on a 5-3 vote, and the newly revised standards were adopted on a 6-2 vote, with at least one member who voted against them citing Linger's revisions as the reason, according to West Virginia Public Broadcasting (April 9, 2015). The standards will be in effect starting in the 2016-2017 academic year.