The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) released a draft of the new Michigan Science and Social Studies standards in August. The MDE also announced a series of information sessions that would take place around the state between August 26 through September 30. (Complete schedule available here.) The stated goal is for the public to provide comments and feedback on the changes to the science and social studies standards.
“We want to make ourselves available to the public to offer comment on what will be Michigan’s updates standards for social studies and science,” State Superintendent Brian Whiston said today. “We’re inviting educators, parents, students and other members of the public to share their thoughts with us.”
Does the MDE really want to hear from the public or just to make the claim? Consider that there is only ONE opportunity for those in the Detroit metro area to give feedback; the location was downtown Detroit on September 1, beginning at 5PM when many are still at work. Many parents who wanted to attend but could not due to schedule conflicts with school orientation, vacations, work, or that they simply didn’t feel safe driving to Detroit alone. The MDE provides an opportunity to leave a comment on their website but that is not nearly as effective as attending in person to share their concerns and get answers to their questions
People who were able to attend said it was a “sales pitch” with a tight agenda that left little room for public input. Those with questions were told them to write them on a sticky note and they will be included in a forthcoming FAQ.
The agenda set by the MDE was as follows:
Science breakout 5:30-6:25;
Social Studies breakout 6:30-7:25;
Two hours to talk about major changes in both science and social studies is NOT sufficient and is an insult to those who took the time to make their way to the Detroit Science Center. Especially, since the “new” science standards are just a rebrand of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) released in 2013. NGSS standards have become as controversial as the Common Core. The Michigan State Board of Education intended to adopt them at that time but strong push back from parents forced them to table the adoption. Instead of accepting the fact that Michigan parents and teachers did NOT not want to adopt the NGSS, they rebranded them as the Michigan Science Standards. Oddly, the MDE contracted with SRI International for what they claim was an “independent comparison” of the NGSS and the Michigan Science Standards and concluded, “Michigan should consider the adoption of the NGSS performance expectations, in order to improve science education for students in all grades.” The conclusion isn’t surprising since SRI is NOT independent. In 2014, SRI was awarded a portion of a $2.9 million grant by the National Science Foundation to develop next generation assessments to go with the NGSS.
So are the new Michigan Science Standards really just a rebrand of the NGSS that Fordham Institute graded them with a mediocre “C”? Is the MDE trying to get the NGSS into our schools despite the fact that Michigan parents and teachers told the Michigan State School Board we didn’t want them in 2013? Was the MDE hoping that parents were too busy over summer break or preparing for the coming school year to notice what they were doing? Is that the cause for the release of the drafts in August and the information sessions held at inconvenient times and locations? Once the MDE goes through the charade of getting public input will they rush the State Board of Education to adopt them?
The draft of the Social Studies standards are based on the C3 Framework which is as controversial as the NGSS. The introduction to the standards states, “Our constitutional democracy requires active citizens.” Our country is NOT a constitutional democracy it is a Constitutional republic. How did this phrase even make it to the final draft? It’s interesting that the goal of the new standards is to create responsible active citizens. Yet, “active citizens” the very people the MDE is shutting out at their information sessions.
This week, the Detroit Free Press reported on the new standards and speculated that the information sessions will be a factor in the final recommendation to the Michigan State Board of Education in October. One month is NOT enough time for parents, teachers, or the State School Board members to digest the new standards, understand their impact, and comment or vote effectively.
Michigan rushed to adopt the Common Core State Standards in 2010 just three weeks after their final release. Let’s not let that happen again. Michigan students, parents, and teachers deserve better than the treatment they are getting from the MDE. We shouldn’t be forced to adopt the standards in order to find out what’s in them.
The MDE and our state officials need to hear from YOU:
Click here to comment on the science standards:
Click here to comment on the social studies standards: