The Wyoming State Board of Education gave the green light to promulgate new draft science standards aimed at ensuring students are well-prepared while keeping politics out of science classrooms.

Wyoming Department of Education Chief of Staff Dicky Shanor served as proxy for Superintendent Jillian Balow throughout the board’s two-day meeting in Laramie, and he says the draft standards are “uniquely Wyoming” in their wording designed to avoid partisan heartburn on certain topics.

“Probably the biggest is climate change, and just a lot of concerns about perhaps perpetuating a narrative around that,” Shanor says, “and the human-caused element that the standards committee didn’t really think needed to be in there.”

The standards review committee worked through different sets of standards, including those previously existing in Wyoming and in other states, line by line to come up with an update to Wyoming’s science standards, which the Wyoming Department of Education says have not seen a significant revision since the early 2000s.

The committee settled on the Next Generation Science Standards as a framework for drafting new Wyoming standards, but altered some of the wording. For example, one NGSS standard reads:

“Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century.”

For the new Wyoming draft standards, the committee used different language (MS-ESS3-5).

“Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused changes in global temperatures over time.”

Another NGSS standard says:

“Design, evaluate, and refine a solution for reducing the impacts of human activities on the environment and biodiversity.”

And the corresponding Wyoming draft standard (HS-LS2-7) reads:

“Evaluation [sic] and assess impacts on the environment and biodiversity in order to refine or design a solution for detrimental impacts or enhancements for positive impacts.”

Pete Gosar, board chair, says he doesn’t believe the language was toned down, other than saying “if there is climate change, prove it.”

“Have a hypothesis. Return to the scientific method,” says Gosar. “Whether we like it or not, many of the climate scientists – most of them – agree that it is happening. So we have to let students be able to discover that for themselves and say ‘is this right or is this wrong?’”

“That’s what we really want to see in education, if you ask me, is a person to question and to understand and then to go look for answers themselves,” says Gosar. “That’s when you get a person who learns throughout their life.”

Now that the board voted in favor of promulgation, here's what happens next, according to the Wyoming Department of Education website:

Governor Mead has a 10-day review where he can instruct the agency to proceed with the adoption process, or delay public comment and set meetings with those he feels necessary to garner more information.

After receiving the permission of the Governor to continue with the rule promulgation process, a 45-day public comment period will open. The State Board of Education will then review and prepare statements for the comments of the public. The Governor then has the opportunity to sign the new standards into law after a 75-day review period by his office.

Local school boards, teachers, and district and building administrators control implementation of the state standards, including curriculum choices and instructional methods.