Facing Backlash, West Virginia Board Of Education Votes To Make Climate Change Curriculum Scientifically Accurate

CREDIT: AP Photo/Darron Cummings

The West Virginia Board of Education voted Wednesday to change newly-agreed upon science standards and make them once again available for public comment, an act that came after pressure from parents and others in the state who felt that the standards didn’t accurately portray the science of climate change.

In December, the West Virginia Board of Education approved statewide science education standards that were based on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) but which contained altered portions aimed at portraying climate change as a debate. The Board decided Wednesday that the standards will be changed back to their original NGSS versions — with the climate-change-doubting alterations removed — and released for public comment. In March, after the public commenting period is complete, the Board of Education will vote again on the standards.

Only two board members voted “no” in Wednesday’s decision to take out the changes to the standards and revert them back to their original NGSS state. One of them, board member Wade Linger, was the member who originally suggested the board change the standards so that they portrayed climate change as more of a debate.

“There was a question in there that said: ‘Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century,” Linger said of the standards in December. “… If you have that as a standard, then that presupposes that global temperatures have risen over the past century, and, of course, there’s debate about that.”

The board accepted Linger’s requests in December, despite the fact that, among climate scientists, there’s broad consensus over what’s causing climate change.

Some West Virginians, as well as education advocates outside the state, weren’t happy about the Board of Education’s December changes to the NGSS. On Wednesday, representatives from climate education group Climate Parents delivered petitions with more than 3,500 signatures to the Board of Education meeting, calling on the board to “replace altered climate content with the original peer-reviewed climate science standards written by scientists and science educators.”

Lisa Hoyos, Director of Climate Parents, praised the Board of Education’s decision to re-issue the standards without the climate-denying additions Wednesday.

“Ensuring students are taught evidence-based facts in their science education is a fundamental principle that the Board affirmed today, after veering off course in December in adopting altered climate science standards,” she said. “Parents by the thousands stood up for accurate climate science education, and we are thankful that the West Virginia Board of Education listened to us.”

The standards that West Virginia’s science standards were originally based on — the NGSS — were put together by 26 states and several science and education organizations. So far, 13 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the standards, which serve as guidelines for science teachers and seek to ensure that students from state to state are receiving a similar, fact-based science education. Last March, Wyoming became the first state to reject the standards.