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Open Letter from an Iowa Next Generation Science Standards Task Force Member

September 30, 2013 22 Comments

Guest post by Jill Jennings

Hi there!

You may or may not know that I am on the Iowa Task Force for the possible adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I have been to Des Moines twice in the last two months for meetings to discuss this. We are scheduled to have at least one more meeting on Wednesday, October 16 at 10 A.M. At the Science Center of Iowa. Anyone is welcome to attend. The facilitator of this task force, Yvette McCulley (Science Consultant, Iowa Dept. Of Ed.), would like us to come to a consensus at this next meeting either for or against these standards. If we don’t, I’m not sure what will happen. These are a set of standards that were nationally written and are more or less another tentacle of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). At this point in time, the schools in Iowa are using the Iowa Core Science Standards. To my understanding, the Iowa Core was written by Iowans, but it was a small group.

As a task force member, I am supposed to share a survey (see instructions and link at the bottom of this article) regarding the NGSS, to give them feedback on what Iowans think about adopting them for our kids in our schools. I will be honest; I don’t like these standards at all. I don’t like Common Core either. In Iowa we have already adopted Common Core for English, Language Arts, and Math. If you have not heard of this or even if you have, you need to do research and see that they are basically nationalizing our schools. As more feedback is coming in and more parents are learning about what has happened right under their noses, we are learning what an abomination the CCSS are. Education is being dumbed down as it is being nationalized. They are taking away local control. In many cases it is already gone. In the document that I have attached I have included in the first half many of the reasons why I don’t like the NGSS. I have included sites to click on with articles for you to read. The second half of the document is a list of the survey questions. I listed them so you can do research ahead of time and make up your own mind. I don’t want you to just believe  what I am telling you … Please read it for yourself. At the very end is the link for you to take the survey. The deadline is Friday, October 11.

In a nutshell, here are the reasons why I don’t like the NGSS:

1. I don’t think it’s constitutional. Our Founders wanted education and all educational decisions (such as standards and curriculum) to be the job of the states. (10th Amendment – "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.")

2. A big chunk of the content concerns Global Warming. Every day more information comes out disproving this theory. I always thought it was a hoax anyway. I do not want our kids being indoctrinated into believing they are at fault for anything to do with the climate or the weather. Plus, I think it’s pretty egotistical for anyone to think that we can actually change the climate!

3. NGSS hits evolution more than any previous standards with no mention whatsoever of Intelligent Design.

4. There is less content covered in NGSS. "Among the most egregious omissions are most of chemistry; thermodynamics; electrical circuits; physiology; minerals and rocks; the layered Earth; the essentials of biological chemistry and biochemical genetics; and at least the descriptive elements of developmental biology." (This quote is from the article "Problems with Next Generation Science Standards" written by Shane Vander Hart on March 11, 2013. You can find it at

5. The Fordham Institute gave NGSS a grade of "C." Can’t we do better than mediocre?! This think tank listed 5 states plus D.C. To which they awarded the grade of A or A- (California, D.C., Indiana, Massachusetts, South Carolina, and Virginia) Why don’t we used their science standards as a road map for our own?

Thanks for your time!

Survey Instructions:

Warning! Do not click on the survey until you are ready to take it. I went into it just to look at the questions and when I went back, it said "thanks for taking our survey!" even though I hadn’t.

Here are the questions that I copied from the survey so you can read them in advance:

1. Which stakeholder group(s) do you represent? (parent, teacher, etc.)

2. Please indicate the process you used to review the Next Generation Science standards to form the basis for your survey responses. (multiple choice as follows) (editor’s note – you should read the standards before completing this survey)

  • Reviewed the entire document.
  • Reviewed the K-12 progression of standards through a particular core idea or topic.
  • Reviewed the full set of standards for all disciplines at a particular grade or grade span.
  • Reviewed a discipline (LS, ESS, PS).
  • Did not review the standards.

3. The Next Generation Science Standards are well-organized and easy to read. Strongly Agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly Disagree

(The following questions ask about the content and rigor of the Next Generation Science Standards.)

4. The amount of content present in the Next Generation Science Standards will prepare students to be ready for college, careers, and other postsecondary options. Strongly Agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly Disagree

5. The Next Generation Science Standards promote rigorous levels of learning to help prepare students to be ready for college, careers, and other postsecondary options. Strongly Agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly Disagree

6. What are the strengths of the Next Generation Science Standards? (form field to answer)

7. What are the weaknesses of the Next Generation Science Standards? (form field to answer)

You can take the survey at the link below.

Filed in: Iowa Ed News, NGSS News • Tags: , Jill Jennings, , Yvette McCulley

About the Author: Shane Vander Hart

Shane Vander Hart founded Iowans for Local Control in 2012. Shane also is the founder and editor-in-chief of Caffeinated Thoughts and the founder and president of 4:15 Communications, LLC, a social media & communications consulting/management firm.  You can connect with Shane on Facebook or follow him on Twitter and Google +.
  • Scott McLeod

    Concerns about coverage sufficiency? Fine.
    Concerns about cost? Fine.
    Concerns about appropriateness of national-level standards for Iowa? Fine.
    Concerns about science standards actually emphasizing science? Scary.

    • Shane Vander Hart

      Man made climate change is junk science… if they want to discuss climate change in general and discuss the various theories behind it, great.

      The hysteria about this is laughable –

      Regarding evolution, it’s already being taught probably more than it should. It’s a THEORY and unfortunately it is being taught as gospel truth. Why double down on it?

      • Scott McLeod

        Not that it’ll do much good in this forum, but I’ll note for the record that the VAST majority of scientists concur that the activities of humans have impacts on our climate.

        Regarding ‘evolution is just a theory,’ this is a fundamental misreading of the scientific use of the word ‘theory.’ After all, gravity is a scientific ‘theory’ too, Shane.

        Faith is a wonderful thing. Faith gives our lives meaning in numerous and marvelous ways. But by definition, faith is not science.

        • Shane Vander Hart

          Gravity is a scientific law, but their are theories about why it happens. Please don’t put evolution and gravity in the same category. Intelligent Design is a scientific theory (not creationism). Evolution has it’s “faith” component to it as well (atheistic naturalism).

          As far as climate change –

          • Craig

            Intelligent Design is no where near a scientific theory. Where’s the controlled and replicated experimentation that is the basis for what science really is? Show me one peer-reviewed, replicated ID study and I’ll gladly teach ID as an alternative theory in my class.

      • Craig

        Really showing your science illiteracy here. Do you understand what a ‘THEORY’ is? No.

        If you had a good science education you’d understand evolutionary Theory is the cornerstone of modern biological science. You’d also see that ID is a giant scam at worst and a wedge for creation teaching at best

    • Leslie Beck

      I run across so much information that disputes climates change – I wonder how much of that is used in schools when kids are told they are killing our planet.

      • Craig

        You mean all that evidence like the IPCC report published last week (I know, conspiracy against wealth and capitalism, blah blah blah) stating that 95% of scientists are in agreement about the theory. Like that evidence?

        • macey

          95% of percentage statistics are made up.

          • Craig

            Oh man, you really got me there. Ouch.

          • macey

            I’d be super bummed out if I was really trying to “get” you.

  • Eric

    It’d be good to have a link to review the proposed standards so we can take the survey.

  • Matthew Bannerman

    I can understand wanting to retain local control of science education, and of education in general. But when you couch that desire for local control in pseudoscience and uninformed ravings about the “evils of climate change” or how “evolution is only a theory”, you lose any credibility you might have had with science teachers across the state. Keep your disinformation and misinformation out of my, and everyone else’s, science classroom; I’d rather adopt the NGSS than listen to someone rave about ridiculous pseudoscience and demonstrably false claims.

  • Tera

    I have a question about your statement, “If you have not heard of this or even if you have, you need to do research and see that they are basically nationalizing our schools. As more feedback is coming in and more parents are learning about what has happened right under their noses, we are learning what an abomination the CCSS are. Education is being dumbed down as it is being nationalized.” As Iowa was one of the last state to write and adopt state standards and give up local control BUT our NAEP results in Iowa are dismal to say the least. Over time Iowa has fallen from the top to the bottom of states in regards to post-secondary readiness as assessed by various national measures. Our kids have fallen on the Iowa Assessment in comparison to national precentiles partially due to the smaller number of students taking the test. This fall is rank started before we had state adopted standards. So as a scientist can you really use the cause effect state that if we use state or national standards in stead of locally developed then our students acheivement will go down.

    I do not think there is a direct correlation and we need to look at places that are getting it right with their sub groups and special education before we say achievement is correlated to the standards we use and where they were developed.

  • Channing Dutton

    Wow…. discouraging to see Jill Jennings throwing around climate denier statements without any citation to what she finds authoritative. When a person like this is appointed to a position of educational leadership and then goes to the trouble to post her denier views she should put up her sources or … clam up. Name an expert Jill or cite a peer-reviewed article that supports your denier fantasy. Here’s mine: 1) Last fall 138 professors from colleges all over Iowa signed a joint declaration urging climate action. A revised version for 2013 will be issued soon. 2) Next we have the events taking place all over the country including killer storms in OKC in the spring, massive wildfires, record heat, deluge rain with flash flooding and renewed drought in the Midwest affecting yield. These are the precise events the models have been predicting for years. 3) We have the recent IPCC report laying out the case for the new climate reality. That report is based on 259 authors, 39 countries, 2000+ scholarly articles and 54,000 comments.

    What do you have Jill? Sorry, but what you read on blogs or heard on FOX news doesn’t count. Those source are fine for your private time when you desire to stick your head in the sand but you started this by saying you have all this information. Pony up.

  • Thomas R. O’Donnell

    The author’s statements are shocking for someone who sits on this task force in review of the standards.

    For another take on the standards and the survey, see:


    First, the standards are constitutional because the STATE is choosing to adopt them, making it a local decision. No one is forcing Iowa to adopt these standards and they were NOT drawn up by a federal agency.

    Second, the standards are not a federal dictate. Educators from 26 states conferred for months to come up with the standards. There was only glancing federal involvement: support from the National Research Council, a Congressionally chartered organization designed to aid lawmakers in making decisions with and about science.

    Third, the standards only state WHAT students should understand, not HOW they should be taught to gain that comprehension. Teachers still have control and the standards are designed to promote thinking skills over rote learning.

    If “local control” means school boards in East Bejeezus, IA get to tell teachers to teach kids the Earth is flat, it was all created by a guy in the sky, and what we do every day has no effect on our planet, those kids will grow up to doomed to fail in college and consigned to a low-wage existence.

    • Shane Vander Hart

      Thomas I will agree that the NGSS standards do not have a federal constitutional issue because unlike the Common Core the feds have not gotten involved thus far.

      Your argument against local control however is asinine.

  • BobSimonhouse

    Who let this Conservative whack-a-doo serve on the committee???
    It is good to have a variety of perspectives serve on the committee. That said, someone who is ignorant yet thinks the CCSS were written nationally, equates CCSS with nationalizing our schools, thinks climate change is a hoax and is ignorant of the latest conclusions coming out, and bemoans the lack of religiously-based theories in the science classroom – is not qualified to be on the committee that reviews science standards. Jill Jennings is so misinformed and ill-equipped to make objective judgments she should not be involved in any serious discussion. This article/letter is repulsive and a smear on the human race. I’m starting to think we need a committee to examine whether Conservatism should be defined as a mental disease.

    • Shane Vander Hart

      Bob, I’m done or more accurately you are done commenting on all of the websites I run.