West Virginia parents, teachers and scientists helped persuade the state board of education on Wednesday to back away from adopting science standards that cast doubt on the existence of climate change, according to the Charleston Gazette.
Climate Parents, a national organization that lobbied the board via an online petition that gathered thousands of signatures, applauded the move.
“Ensuring students are taught evidence-based facts in their science education is a fundamental principle that the Board affirmed today,” Lisa Hoyos, director of Climate Parents, said in a statement.
West Virginia worked with 25 other states to write what is known as the Next Generation Science Standards, which outline what K-12 students should learn about, including human-driven climate change.
Twelve states and the District of Columbia have now adopted those standards. But the West Virginia board altered language related to climate change before adopting the standards in December, a move first reported by the Gazette.
For example, one sixth-grade standard requires students to explore the factors causing “the rise in global temperatures over the past century;” the West Virginia board changes required students to explore the “rise and fall in global temperatures over the past century.”
The changes came at the request of board member Wade Linger, who has said he doesn’t believe human-driven climate change is a “foregone conclusion.” Linger was one of two board members who stuck by the changes on Wednesday.
“I thought this board was working under three guiding principles,” Linger wrote in an e-mail Wednesday. “1. We will not be a rubber stamp 2. We do what is best for the kids, not the adults in the system 3. We teach kids how to think, not what to think.
“In my opinion, a decision to withdraw the standard violates all three of those principles.”
The debate in West Virginia follows Wyoming’s decision last spring to reject the Next Generation Science Standards in part because of their approach to climate change. Coal is an important industry in both states.
The changes by the West Virginia board became widely known only after Gazette reporter Ryan Quinn wrote a story about them. There was an immediate backlash, including from the West Virginia Science Teachers Association, whose members were involved in developing the Next Generation Science Standards but did not know about the proposed revisions.
The National Science Teachers Association also sent a letter pressing the board to return to the original standards, as did more than 80 West Virginia University professors.
Achieve, the organization that coordinated the standards’ development, also pushed back against the changes. The Next Generation Science Standards were based the National Research Council’s effort to identify what K-12 students need to know about science. To the extent that states change the standards, “they undermine the science (and ultimately disadvantage students),” Chad Colby, a spokesman for Achieve, wrote in an e-mail.
The West Virginia board will now seek public comment on the standards without the controversial climate-change language, the Charleston Gazette reported, and those original standards will come up for a final vote in March.