After the bruising battle over the new state science standards ended in February, everybody thought the new standards were good to go until 2014. But are they? Maybe not, according to some overlooked wording in one of last spring's major education bills and the opinion of a key legislative staffer.
SB 1908 requires the state Board of Education to adopt top-notch Next Generation academic standards by the end of 2011. And that apparently includes another set of science standards, because the BOE adopted the latest standards a few months before the bill passed and was signed into law by Gov. Charlie Crist.
The Department of Education recently asked an attorney with the Legislature's joint Administrative Procedures Committee for his opinion. And the lawyer, Brian Moore, said the law seems to be clear. "I think they have to adopt everything again," he told the Gradebook this morning.
Does that mean the DOE has to undertake another full-blown, monthslong review of the standards? That's not clear. But SB 1908 says the education commission must submit proposed Next Generation standards to teachers, experts and others for "review and comment." Then they go to the governor, the Senate president and the House speaker at least 21 days before the BOE considers adoption.
For what it's worth, the Joint Administrative Procedures Committee includes Rep. D. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, the lead House sponsor of the "academic freedom" bill pushed by Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Brandon. Moore said neither Hays nor any other committee members had any input into his opinion. But he also said members would be consulted if DOE ignored it.
SB 1908 says the Board of Education must adopt a review and readoption schedule for Next Generation standards by Dec. 31, 2008. The board next meets Dec. 2 in Orlando.
A DOE spokesperson told the Gradebook last week that it was not clear when, before 2011, the science standards would be revisited, or how intensely they'd be reviewed. "They're going to take a look and see if there's anything new in the science world that they need to put in," the spokesperson said.
It's worth noting that the board vote in February was 4-3. And every single board member will be up for reappointment by 2011.
Needless to say, supporters of the new science standards are wondering what, exactly, is going on. For a summary of their concerns, and a good synopsis of the technical background behind all this, see this Florida Citizens for Science blog post here.
Ron Matus, state education reporter