Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear signaled yesterday that Kentucky would move forward with implementation of a new set of common science standards despite opposition from a legislative review panel.
By a vote of 5-1, the state's Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee yesterday rejected the standards as crafted, according to an article in the Courier-Journal newspaper of Louisville. The Next Generation Science Standards, developed by a coalition of 26 states (including Kentucky) and several national organizations, had previously won unanimous support from the Kentucky state board of education.
"Governor Beshear fully supports the science standards adopted by the Kentucky Board of Education and is disappointed that the ... subcommittee did not approve them today," the governor's office said in a statement, the Courier-Journal reports. "The governor views these standards as a critical component in preparing Kentuckians for college and the workforce."
The news story indicates that the governor has executive power to implement the regulations despite the panel's finding that they are deficient. However, it also indicates that the state legislature could potentially pass legislation in 2014 that would block this action.
Kentucky and five other states so far have adopted the Next Generation Science Standards since they were finalized in April, including California, Kansas, Maryland, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
The most recent addition was California, where the state board of education earlier this month voted unanimously to adopt the science standards.
Key elements of the standards include providing a greater emphasis on depth over breadth in science education and asking students to apply their learning through the practices of scientific inquiry and engineering design.
Republican state Sen. Mike Bowen said the people of Kentucky simply are not prepared to embrace the standards as currently drafted.
"From one end of the state to the other, the people of this commonwealth are not ready to embrace these standards for a variety of reasons," Bowen said, according to the Courier-Journal.
Public comments on the standards have included some sharp criticism of how the standards handle the issues of teaching about climate change and evolution. (Here's a blog post looking at what one Republican lawmaker had to say about those issues.)
The Courier-Journal story indicates, however, that while these are still seen as top complaints, they apparently are not the only issues. It said opponents also have said the standards will create poor and confusing content and fail to teach some of the most basic scientific concepts.
But Kentucky education Commissioner Terry Holliday defended the standards and praised Gov. Beshear's actions in a news release.
"We appreciate the governor's courage and wisdom in exercising his legal authority to implement the Kentucky Core Academic Standards in science," he said. "This is good for Kentucky teachers and it's good for Kentucky students. As mandated by Senate Bill 1, these new science standards will ensure our graduates are prepared for college and that they will be able to compete with those from around the country and the world."
According to the Courier-Journal, Holliday also said any concerns about content not included explicitly in the standards can be addressed when curricula are developed locally to align with them. At this stage, educators will provide a more detailed teaching plan and stress what colleges view as important preparation for entry-level courses, he told the newspaper.
The state received more than 4,000 public comments on the standards. The vast majority, about 3,700, were favorable, according to the news release from the Kentucky education department.