The state school board has approved a new set of science standards for Utah middle-schoolers. They emphasize engineering and reflect the latest research on climate change.
The board voted 11-4 in favor of the standards despite concerns from the public and some board members about sections dealing with the human role in climate change. They were also written by the same national research group that crafted the state’s existing standards which made some people like Grant Fielding Barlow uneasy.
“I feel that excellence in education cannot be achieved with a national standard,” Barlow says. “I think people need to be free at the local level to rise to the level of their potential.”
Sara Young was the K12 science specialist for the state office of education when the new standards were first drafted more than two years ago. The vote brought her to tears. She says she's excited that, for the first time, students will be learning engineering concepts.
“How do you take information, create a design, test it, gather data from that and then do a reiteration and revision of that design?” Young says. “That is really an application of science and I think we’ll be seeing so much more of that in life science, earth/space science and physical science in our middle-school classrooms.”
The first draft of the standards was unveiled at the beginning of the summer and underwent a 90-day public review process.
The standards will go into effect in fall 2018. Education officials say this will give teachers and administrators plenty of time to adapt.