REP. PAUL AMADOR: Setting the record straight on Idaho science standards

Print Article

Here are some of the headlines or comments I have seen or heard over the past several days:

• “Climate change could soon be scrubbed from history… at least in Idaho”

• “Lawmakers Strip Climate Change from Science Standards”

• “Changes made by Idaho Committee will Require New Textbooks”

Unfortunately, in modern society where our consumption of media has taken on a very short attention span, it has become increasingly easy to jump to conclusions — from something you read on Facebook or a snippet on the news. In actuality, none of the headlines or comments mentioned above are grounded in reality.

I hope to provide some clarity on the history of our science standards in Idaho and what actually occurred in the House Education Committee last week.

First, an understanding of our standards setting process: Idaho statute requires that academic standards be evaluated every five years. This review is done by the State Department of Education, the State Board of Education, and because of a specific constitutional requirement, the Idaho Legislature.

Our previous set of Idaho science standards was originally adopted in 2001 and has received only very minor updates in the interim. The standards have been given a rating of “F” by the Fordham Institute for their overall quality. In 2016, the State Department of Education brought forward a completely new set of science standards that were largely based on the work of a working group known as the Next Generation Science Standards. This consortium of 26 states, the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the National Research Council worked to build a new framework of standards that states could voluntarily adopt in whole or in part.

Although I was not an elected official to the Idaho Legislature in 2016, I can tell you that the entire set of newly proposed science standards, based largely on the NGSS Standards, were rejected that year.

In 2017, the first year I held office, the same science standards were returned to the Legislature for consideration. During the 2017 House hearing on this issue, there were two motions: one that I made which was to pass the standards in their entirety with no changes, and the other motion was to approve the standards with the exception of five of the 327 standards. Based on the sequence of the motions, we voted on the motion with the five exceptions; that motion passed with my dissent.

Because those five standards were rejected in 2017 and the complicated administrative rules process in the Idaho Legislature, the State Department of Education was required to return in 2018 to present the committee with another update to the standards related to the rejection of the five standards. Between the 2017 and 2018 legislative sessions, the department worked with a committee and the public to adjust the five excepted standards to better meet the expectations of the 2017 motion.

During the 2018 House Education hearing, there were again two motions on approval of the science standards: one to fully approve the standards and the other to approve the standards with the exception of a single standard. The first motion to approve the standards in their entirety was defeated on a vote of five in favor and 11 against; I voted in favor. After the first motion failed, there were essentially two choices remaining: a) either approve the compromise motion to remove one standard, or b) potentially kill the entire slate of new science standards and revert to our 2001 standards. Ultimately the new science standards were approved by the committee with the exception of the single standard, with my assent. My voting decisions were based on feedback from constituents about the need to adopt standards that are up to date, relying on experts in the field, and understanding the need to move forward on the issue.

So where do we stand now? Do we have science in Idaho? What about climate change? Without political spin, Idaho will now have a vastly more modern set of science standards in place. The House committee approved 326 of 327 proposed standards. Also, it is important to note that the state sets minimum standards, so any school district is welcome to go above and beyond the state standards and adopt any curriculum and textbook that meets the minimum standards.

The one standard that was removed actually does not reference climate change, which may be surprising since most of the media headlines specifically highlighted the removal of climate change from Idaho standards. The removed standard was ESS3-4-1, which is a fourth-grade standard and reads, “Obtain and combine information to describe that energy and fuels are derived from natural resources and their uses effect on the environment.” At least six standards that reference climate change were approved by the committee.

Although I did not necessarily support the removal of any standards, the passing of 326 of 327 was a much better outcome for the students of Idaho than returning to the 2001 science standards. We now have modern set of standards that will help prepare our students for the current times and future workforce.

Print Article

Read More My Turn

OPINION: CHUCK MALLOY: Don’t tell Betsy Russell that newspapers are dead

June 22, 2018 at 5:00 am | Coeur d'Alene Press Betsy Russell has seen just about everything in her long career covering Idaho politics, so there isn’t much that surprises her. That is, until the Idaho Press of Nampa contacted her in April with w...


Read More

Opinion - Carlson: To merge or not? That’s the question

June 20, 2018 at 5:00 am | Coeur d'Alene Press Don’t look now but a huge fly just landed in the middle of the mud that has dogged Avista Utilities’ proposed sale to the Canadian-owned and operated HydroOne headquartered in Toronto, Ontario. The ...


Read More

50: Yes, it’s a big deal

June 16, 2018 at 5:00 am | Coeur d'Alene Press So what’s up with the number 50? Have you ever contemplated that question? Am I the only person quirky enough to consider this? It is sort of a cool number. Did you know that 50 is the sum of three...


Read More

When police cross the line

June 15, 2018 at 5:00 am | Coeur d'Alene Press When I was a little girl, I can remember my kindergarten teacher telling us that if we were ever lost or afraid to “go find a police officer and they will help you.” Indeed, I taught my children the ...


Read More

Contact Us

(208) 664-8176
215 N. Second St
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho 83814

©2018 The Coeur d'Alene Press Terms of Use Privacy Policy