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WV House OKs block on science standards over global warming

The West Virginia House of Delegates completed its latest attack on the state's education standards Friday, blocking new science standards from taking effect because they mention climate change.

The Republican-controlled House voted 73-20 for legislation (HB 4014) that delays implementation of the science standards at least a year.

House members have complained that the standards don't reflect both sides of the global warming debate, even though a majority of studies, science organizations and climate scientists say global warming stems largely from man-made sources.

“Starting in kindergarten, you're talking about teaching the kids about how humans negatively affect the Earth,” said Delegate Michel Moffatt, R-Putnam. “In an ideal world, you could interpret that as, sure, everyone has a footprint, but you could also twist that into all fossil fuels are bad.”

Delegate Jim Butler, R-Mason, said the state's new science standards “expect students to believe in” global warming and “prove it with evidence.”

“In an energy-producing state, it's a concern to me that we are teaching our kids potentially that we are doing immoral things here in order to make a living in our state,” Butler said. “We need to make sure our science standards are actually teaching science and not pushing a political agenda.”

West Virginia's new Next Generation Science Standards three times address human-influenced climate change — in sixth-grade science, in ninth-grade science and in a high school environmental science elective course.

Last year, state school board members modified the standards that mentioned climate change in hopes of satisfying global warming skeptics.

The new science standards are supposed to take effect July 1. The science standards on the books now received a “D” grade from a conservative think tank, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, in 2013. Under the bill, those standards must remain in place through June 30, 2017.

The same Fordham study rated Next Generation standards a “C.”

“This [bill] says let's keep the standards we have in place now, and let's take a more-thorough look and make sure we're getting the best standards available,” said Delegate Paul Espinosa, R-Jefferson, who heads the House Education Committee.

The bill approved Friday also requires experts selected by House and Senate leaders to review and suggest changes to English and math standards that take effect before the 2017-18 school year.

The bill also forces the state school board to dump its statewide standardized test — called the Smarter Balanced test — next school year and replace it with another exam. The Smarter Balanced tests are aligned with Common Core standards.

“There's widespread agreement that the amount of time we spend on our assessments is way too much,” Espinosa said. “And with the Smarter Balanced test, educators have expressed they really don't get timely actionable data for them to be able to address students' needs.”

Last year, the state school board repealed Common Core standards and drew up new ones, but critics complained that the new standards were too similar to Common Core.

“We have a good, strong bill that makes clear that there continue to be concerns with the Common Core standards,” Espinosa said. “All we've really asked for all along is for the board to address concerns that remain with Common Core and to engage in a thoughtful process to make sure we have world-class standards that West Virginians can be confident in.”

Reach Eric Eyre at ericeyre@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-4869 or follow @ericeyre on Twitter.

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