On Sunday, the Missoulian ran a piece explaining how the state and local school districts are working to develop new standards for science across the state. It was a much-needed piece in an era when Republicans repeatedly claim that there is no local control over what students learn.
The piece ably explained something that few people outside of education really seem to understand: that the state, in collaboration with local teachers, establishes standards, broad guidelines and expectations for student learning in every curricular area. Then local districts, often alone, but sometimes in voluntary partnership with other districts, develop curriculum, the specific instruction and content that is used in those districts to meet the broad standards.
It’s an arrangement that Montana schools have always used: partnership to write the broad guidelines combined with local autonomy about how to implement them. Conservatives who demagogue about the Common Core, for instance, seem unwilling to admit or learn that even under these new standards, the curriculum is written by local teachers in their own communities. And just as your local board will open up discussion about curriculum to the public, the state will do the same with the new science standards. As the story notes:
The proposed standards were created by committees of educators, administrators and community members. They will be open for public input, and are slated to be up for approval this fall.
All in all, the Missoulian piece was a useful explanation of a process that conservative opponents have politicized across the nation, leading to states abandoning the teaching of climate science and valorizing the slaveowners of the Confederacy. At the root of that politicization is a deliberate effort to mislead the public about how standards and curriculum are developed, something the Missoulian piece explained well.
Here in Montana, conservatives claimed, for instance, that the Common Core standards were adopted without public input, despite 12 public meetings about the adoption of the standards.
The increasingly heated (and often entirely irrational) debate about education standards, whether they are the Common Core or Next Generation Science Standards would certainly be improved if conservatives understood the difference between a state standard and local curriculum, and even more so if they told the truth about what those standards really mean.