Open Letter from an Iowa Next Generation Science Standards Task Force Member

Guest post by Jill Jennings

Hi there!

You may or may not know that I am on the Iowa Task Force for the possible adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I have been to Des Moines twice in the last two months for meetings to discuss this. We are scheduled to have at least one more meeting on Wednesday, October 16 at 10 A.M. At the Science Center of Iowa. Anyone is welcome to attend. The facilitator of this task force, Yvette McCulley (Science Consultant, Iowa Dept. Of Ed.), would like us to come to a consensus at this next meeting either for or against these standards. If we don’t, I’m not sure what will happen. These are a set of standards that were nationally written and are more or less another tentacle of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). At this point in time, the schools in Iowa are using the Iowa Core Science Standards. To my understanding, the Iowa Core was written by Iowans, but it was a small group.

As a task force member, I am supposed to share a survey (see instructions and link at the bottom of this article) regarding the NGSS, to give them feedback on what Iowans think about adopting them for our kids in our schools. I will be honest; I don’t like these standards at all. I don’t like Common Core either. In Iowa we have already adopted Common Core for English, Language Arts, and Math. If you have not heard of this or even if you have, you need to do research and see that they are basically nationalizing our schools. As more feedback is coming in and more parents are learning about what has happened right under their noses, we are learning what an abomination the CCSS are. Education is being dumbed down as it is being nationalized. They are taking away local control. In many cases it is already gone. In the document that I have attached I have included in the first half many of the reasons why I don’t like the NGSS. I have included sites to click on with articles for you to read. The second half of the document is a list of the survey questions. I listed them so you can do research ahead of time and make up your own mind. I don’t want you to just believe  what I am telling you … Please read it for yourself. At the very end is the link for you to take the survey. The deadline is Friday, October 11.

In a nutshell, here are the reasons why I don’t like the NGSS:

1. I don’t think it’s constitutional. Our Founders wanted education and all educational decisions (such as standards and curriculum) to be the job of the states. (10th Amendment – "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.")

2. A big chunk of the content concerns Global Warming. Every day more information comes out disproving this theory. I always thought it was a hoax anyway. I do not want our kids being indoctrinated into believing they are at fault for anything to do with the climate or the weather. Plus, I think it’s pretty egotistical for anyone to think that we can actually change the climate!

3. NGSS hits evolution more than any previous standards with no mention whatsoever of Intelligent Design.

4. There is less content covered in NGSS. "Among the most egregious omissions are most of chemistry; thermodynamics; electrical circuits; physiology; minerals and rocks; the layered Earth; the essentials of biological chemistry and biochemical genetics; and at least the descriptive elements of developmental biology." (This quote is from the article "Problems with Next Generation Science Standards" written by Shane Vander Hart on March 11, 2013. You can find it at

5. The Fordham Institute gave NGSS a grade of "C." Can’t we do better than mediocre?! This think tank listed 5 states plus D.C. To which they awarded the grade of A or A- (California, D.C., Indiana, Massachusetts, South Carolina, and Virginia) Why don’t we used their science standards as a road map for our own?

Thanks for your time!


Survey Instructions:

Warning! Do not click on the survey until you are ready to take it. I went into it just to look at the questions and when I went back, it said "thanks for taking our survey!" even though I hadn’t.

Here are the questions that I copied from the survey so you can read them in advance:

1. Which stakeholder group(s) do you represent? (parent, teacher, etc.)

2. Please indicate the process you used to review the Next Generation Science standards to form the basis for your survey responses. (multiple choice as follows) (editor’s note – you should read the standards before completing this survey)

  • Reviewed the entire document.
  • Reviewed the K-12 progression of standards through a particular core idea or topic.
  • Reviewed the full set of standards for all disciplines at a particular grade or grade span.
  • Reviewed a discipline (LS, ESS, PS).
  • Did not review the standards.

3. The Next Generation Science Standards are well-organized and easy to read. Strongly Agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly Disagree

(The following questions ask about the content and rigor of the Next Generation Science Standards.)

4. The amount of content present in the Next Generation Science Standards will prepare students to be ready for college, careers, and other postsecondary options. Strongly Agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly Disagree

5. The Next Generation Science Standards promote rigorous levels of learning to help prepare students to be ready for college, careers, and other postsecondary options. Strongly Agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly Disagree

6. What are the strengths of the Next Generation Science Standards? (form field to answer)

7. What are the weaknesses of the Next Generation Science Standards? (form field to answer)

You can take the survey at the link below.

About Shane Vander Hart

Shane Vander Hart founded Iowans for Local Control in 2012 which later merged with Iowa RestorEd. Shane also is the founder and editor-in-chief of Caffeinated Thoughts and the founder and president of 4:15 Communications, LLC, a social media & communications consulting/management firm.  You can connect with Shane on Facebook or follow him on Twitter and Google +.


  1. Concerns about coverage sufficiency? Fine.
    Concerns about cost? Fine.
    Concerns about appropriateness of national-level standards for Iowa? Fine.
    Concerns about science standards actually emphasizing science? Scary.

    • Man made climate change is junk science… if they want to discuss climate change in general and discuss the various theories behind it, great.

      The hysteria about this is laughable –

      Regarding evolution, it’s already being taught probably more than it should. It’s a THEORY and unfortunately it is being taught as gospel truth. Why double down on it?

      • Not that it’ll do much good in this forum, but I’ll note for the record that the VAST majority of scientists concur that the activities of humans have impacts on our climate.

        Regarding ‘evolution is just a theory,’ this is a fundamental misreading of the scientific use of the word ‘theory.’ After all, gravity is a scientific ‘theory’ too, Shane.

        Faith is a wonderful thing. Faith gives our lives meaning in numerous and marvelous ways. But by definition, faith is not science.

        • Gravity is a scientific law, but their are theories about why it happens. Please don’t put evolution and gravity in the same category. Intelligent Design is a scientific theory (not creationism). Evolution has it’s “faith” component to it as well (atheistic naturalism).

          As far as climate change –

          • Intelligent Design is no where near a scientific theory. Where’s the controlled and replicated experimentation that is the basis for what science really is? Show me one peer-reviewed, replicated ID study and I’ll gladly teach ID as an alternative theory in my class.

          • Mike Wedge says:

            To be clear, Shane—intelligent design is NOT a scientific theory. This is just blatantly wrong. Totally.100%.Wrong.

          • Disagree with you. It is as much a scientific theory as evolution.

            Creationism is not, don’t confuse the two.

          • Mike Wedge says:

            Exactly how is intelligent design a scientific theory…what papers have been published? To what journals? What studies support the notion that a higher power (or something) is directly responsible for life’s diversity??? How is that science? If science is about learning more about our natural world, how can it study something supernatural? I am legitimately curious to better understand your position as I have read, re-read, talked with others (both science and non-science) and have yet to understand how anyone can regard ID as a scientific theory. The closest ID comes to is pseudoscience, but even to put ID anywhere near science is fundamentally wrong. Thoughts??

          • What a minute?

            The scientific method process is dependent on publishing in journals approved by you?

            How can you study anything dealing with origins. Science is limited. Evolution has the same limitations. Neither of us were there.

            The reason it’s hard to have a rational discussion over this in the scientific community is the blatant bias that exists. Scientists who do accept intelligent design are blackballed or not published. Why? Not because their science isn’t sound, but because it doesn’t mesh with many of their “peers” believe.

            Stephen C. Meyer wrote a paper on the history and defense of the theory of intelligent design.

            Read the case he makes before dismissing the notion outright –
            I don’t mind evolution being taught, what I mind is that is taught exclusively as though there are not competitive theories and that it is undisputed fact. That is not teaching kids to think critically, that’s indoctrination.

          • Mike Wedge says:

            1. Yes, science operates by having work peer reviewed and published. Not approved by me, but the scientific community. That is how science works, yes.

            2. Yes, science is limited….limited by what can be studied in the natural world. Science does not specify how the universe or life began. Evolutionary theory makes no mention of how life began; only how life has changed once it began. Big Bang theory does not state how the universe was formed, but only how it has expanded since it was formed.

            3. You have yet to state any information as to why you (or others) think ID is a scientific theory—which it is not. I’m totally open to having a rational conversation and invite you to have it. I have read the case you site (as have others) and again, there is not a shred of evidence to support ID, other than supposition. As I tell my students, scientists WANT evolution (and any theory or law) to be challenged…we invite attack. Science is a brutal competition of ideas (supported by evidence). If your idea is not supported and does not withstand “attack”, then your idea is discarded in favor of one that is supported. Evolutionary theory has withstood over 100 years of scrutiny and re-testing and has only been stronger.

            4. In science, there really isn’t such a thing as competing theories i.e. evolution vs. ID. Now, there are competing hypotheses i.e. what specifically caused dinosaur extinction or how cold fusion actually works (or does not work). And YES, notions are dismissed outright in science if there is a lack of evidence. Are there gaps in evolutionary theory? This is a common ‘fault’ people find with evolution…certainly we don’t know the entire evolutionary history of every species on this planet, but the fundamental unifying concept that all life is descended from a common ancestor and that today’s species were not found in the past (whether it be thousands or millions of years) is not going to change…it’s as much of a fact as we can get. If you want to see kids think critically, show them fossils of whales….

            5. I certainly do appreciate the forum you have provided and your willingness to engage in a robust conversation. Too often blogs and just day-to-day discussions devolve into shouting and/or closed ears/minds. I personally enjoy these discussions and have worked hard to make sure my students can engage in them.

          • Mike Wedge says:

            In Kitzmiller v. Dover, it was ruled that ID is “not science.” ID is creationism that is cloaked in a very flimsy attempt to be taken as science. I’m just not getting why you (and others) think that ID (and other creationist ideas) should be taught along side evolution. I also do not see (and having taught evolution as a HS science teacher and creationism as a Sunday school teacher) where there is conflict i.e. why people think one is “right” and the other “wrong.” Why does it have to be a “this or that” choice? Lets just say that it magically becomes okay to teach ID in schools, what about Hindu creationism? Islamic creationism? Should we be expected to teach all religious creationist ideas? In a science classroom? Please help me better understand where you’re coming from.

      • Really showing your science illiteracy here. Do you understand what a ‘THEORY’ is? No.

        If you had a good science education you’d understand evolutionary Theory is the cornerstone of modern biological science. You’d also see that ID is a giant scam at worst and a wedge for creation teaching at best

    • Leslie Beck says:

      I run across so much information that disputes climates change – I wonder how much of that is used in schools when kids are told they are killing our planet.

  2. It’d be good to have a link to review the proposed standards so we can take the survey.

  3. Matthew Bannerman says:

    I can understand wanting to retain local control of science education, and of education in general. But when you couch that desire for local control in pseudoscience and uninformed ravings about the “evils of climate change” or how “evolution is only a theory”, you lose any credibility you might have had with science teachers across the state. Keep your disinformation and misinformation out of my, and everyone else’s, science classroom; I’d rather adopt the NGSS than listen to someone rave about ridiculous pseudoscience and demonstrably false claims.

  4. I have a question about your statement, “If you have not heard of this or even if you have, you need to do research and see that they are basically nationalizing our schools. As more feedback is coming in and more parents are learning about what has happened right under their noses, we are learning what an abomination the CCSS are. Education is being dumbed down as it is being nationalized.” As Iowa was one of the last state to write and adopt state standards and give up local control BUT our NAEP results in Iowa are dismal to say the least. Over time Iowa has fallen from the top to the bottom of states in regards to post-secondary readiness as assessed by various national measures. Our kids have fallen on the Iowa Assessment in comparison to national precentiles partially due to the smaller number of students taking the test. This fall is rank started before we had state adopted standards. So as a scientist can you really use the cause effect state that if we use state or national standards in stead of locally developed then our students acheivement will go down.

    I do not think there is a direct correlation and we need to look at places that are getting it right with their sub groups and special education before we say achievement is correlated to the standards we use and where they were developed.

  5. Channing Dutton says:

    Wow…. discouraging to see Jill Jennings throwing around climate denier statements without any citation to what she finds authoritative. When a person like this is appointed to a position of educational leadership and then goes to the trouble to post her denier views she should put up her sources or … clam up. Name an expert Jill or cite a peer-reviewed article that supports your denier fantasy. Here’s mine: 1) Last fall 138 professors from colleges all over Iowa signed a joint declaration urging climate action. A revised version for 2013 will be issued soon. 2) Next we have the events taking place all over the country including killer storms in OKC in the spring, massive wildfires, record heat, deluge rain with flash flooding and renewed drought in the Midwest affecting yield. These are the precise events the models have been predicting for years. 3) We have the recent IPCC report laying out the case for the new climate reality. That report is based on 259 authors, 39 countries, 2000+ scholarly articles and 54,000 comments.

    What do you have Jill? Sorry, but what you read on blogs or heard on FOX news doesn’t count. Those source are fine for your private time when you desire to stick your head in the sand but you started this by saying you have all this information. Pony up.

  6. Thomas R. O'Donnell says:

    The author’s statements are shocking for someone who sits on this task force in review of the standards.

    For another take on the standards and the survey, see:


    First, the standards are constitutional because the STATE is choosing to adopt them, making it a local decision. No one is forcing Iowa to adopt these standards and they were NOT drawn up by a federal agency.

    Second, the standards are not a federal dictate. Educators from 26 states conferred for months to come up with the standards. There was only glancing federal involvement: support from the National Research Council, a Congressionally chartered organization designed to aid lawmakers in making decisions with and about science.

    Third, the standards only state WHAT students should understand, not HOW they should be taught to gain that comprehension. Teachers still have control and the standards are designed to promote thinking skills over rote learning.

    If “local control” means school boards in East Bejeezus, IA get to tell teachers to teach kids the Earth is flat, it was all created by a guy in the sky, and what we do every day has no effect on our planet, those kids will grow up to doomed to fail in college and consigned to a low-wage existence.

    • Thomas I will agree that the NGSS standards do not have a federal constitutional issue because unlike the Common Core the feds have not gotten involved thus far.

      Your argument against local control however is asinine.

  7. BobSimonhouse says:

    Who let this Conservative whack-a-doo serve on the committee???
    It is good to have a variety of perspectives serve on the committee. That said, someone who is ignorant yet thinks the CCSS were written nationally, equates CCSS with nationalizing our schools, thinks climate change is a hoax and is ignorant of the latest conclusions coming out, and bemoans the lack of religiously-based theories in the science classroom – is not qualified to be on the committee that reviews science standards. Jill Jennings is so misinformed and ill-equipped to make objective judgments she should not be involved in any serious discussion. This article/letter is repulsive and a smear on the human race. I’m starting to think we need a committee to examine whether Conservatism should be defined as a mental disease.

  8. As I read through the above post by Jill Jennings, I was struck by her obvious lack of knowledge with regard to science. I make this statement because as I read her reasons for disliking NGSS she completely contradicted herself. Reason 4 demonstrates her lack of understanding by discrediting her 2nd and 3rd reason. Looking at the content most egregiously omitted based on the report by the Fordham Institute, many of the topics listed directly or in some way support Evolution as well as Climate Change. Sadly, this blatant lack of knowledge or research done to understand what it is she is writing about, makes Ms. Jennings post far less credible and, for that matter damages her view point as well as the view point of this website for allowing something so poorly thought out to be posted. If you are going to make a point to try and persuade someone, make sure what you are saying is accurate. I find this post terribly disappointing!

  9. mysharon says:

    I thought liberals _liked_ diversity. 50 different standards from 50 different states certainly is diverse. Oh, wait. That means the liberal agenda will fail. Never mind.

  10. Mike Wedge says:

    My name is Mike Wedge. I am a HS science teacher, STEM coordinator and am a member of the Iowa NGSS taskforce. I typically don’t comment on blogs, especially blogs from a site like this one, which is antithetical to my viewpoints on education, but the open letter from Jill Jennings and the robust dialogue that has ensued has prompted me to comment.

    First, I want to say that I enjoy vigorous conversations and
    really try to push my students to engage in robust, reasoned conversations and
    debates that involve facts, not emotions.
    In my science classes, we have whiteboard sessions that serve as a sort
    of symposium where ideas are discussed as well as laboratory experiment results
    are analyzed. I repeatedly tell my
    students to bring all ideas to the surface where they can be “attacked” i.e.
    thoroughly vetted. I also instill in my
    students that, as scientists, we want
    people to attack our conclusions and even our data—why? Because if your conclusions and data
    withstand the scrutiny, that makes them stronger…this is how scientific
    knowledge is evaluated and eventually, possibly accepted.

    Second, at its fundamental core science is uncertain and
    there really isn’t anything called “settled science.” Keep in mind that hundreds of years ago, it
    was “settled science” that the Earth was flat…that the universe revolved around
    the Earth and that fire was caused by combustible bodies (Phlogiston
    theory). HOWEVER, there is such a thing
    as consensus. There is consensus that
    all bodies with mass exert a gravitational force (gravitational theory), that
    microscopic organisms cause disease (germ theory), all organisms are descended
    from a common ancestor (evolutionary theory) and that the Earth’s climate is
    being significantly altered by increased amounts of carbon dioxide (climate
    change). Is it 100% ‘proven’ that
    climate change is occurring? No—and I
    would submit that nothing in science is 100%.
    But, if you went into the doctor and he/she told you that you have a 99%
    chance of having cancer, would you tell him, “Nah, I don’t believe you.”? Obviously, you’d get a second (or fifth)
    opinion, but at some point, with overwhelming data, wouldn’t you do something? We can state that there is very, very strong
    consensus (based on overwhelming evidence) that Earth’s climate is changing and
    most signs point to man-made causes.
    Like I said to a neighbor of mine the other day, I bet in 100 years our decedents
    will be mystified as to why our generation did NOTHING to combat climate change
    and continued to believe that humans are blameless for the current climatic

    I state the above (I hope it doesn’t come across as long
    winded) as a segue way into my concerns with Jill Jennings’s open letter. Let me state that I certainly appreciate her
    willingness to serve and the seriousness she took her role. I thought it was commendable and my comments
    to come are not personal and not meant to impugn her ability or intelligence
    (or anyone else that has posted). But…….

    1. NGSS is not, I
    repeat, NOT a federally mandated (or even suggested) curriculum. State governments funded NGSS, like common
    core, in an attempt to design a coherent, rigorous curriculum that will allow
    states to work together to raise educational levels. This was made very clear to us (the NGSS task
    force) committee members. Right now,
    because Iowa uses Iowa Core, there are very few resources for Iowa teachers
    because (gasp!) we’re the only ones who use Iowa core (for science). If we adopted NGSS (as was relayed to us on
    the committee), Iowa could participate in a statewide network that could share
    resources (including defraying the costs of testing). Again, the Federal government would not be
    involved whatsoever.

    2. YES—the NGSS
    makes it explicit that climate change be taught (as does Iowa Core, and to my
    knowledge, most other state science curricula).
    Now, it doesn’t state, “man is directly responsible”, what NGSS requires
    is for students to find and analyze evidence, to use models and to make
    conclusions and predictions. I am
    especially disappointed with Ms. Jennings’s opposition to NGSS because I sat
    right next to her in one of our meetings when I asked a fellow NGSS taskforce
    member (an 18 year-old senior in high school) what he knew about evolutionary
    theory and climate change. I will never
    forget his response (I’m paraphrasing).
    He felt “deprived” (his word) because he was never exposed to either,
    never talked about either one of these topics.
    He said that he was done a disservice, because such important
    information was denied to him (and his classmates). If I’m inferring correctly, Ms. Jennings (and
    many others) would rather deny children (who will soon be making decisions in
    our society) the information needed to make informed, rational choices?? Climate change is certainly not a hoax and
    YES, humans are more than capable of significantly impacting (not for the
    better) our environment. Speaking of
    which, I challenge of my students to give me ONE example of how humans benefit
    the planet other than “cleaning up pollution” or “keeping the deer population
    in check” or “helping injured animals.”
    As of yet, no one has. Can any of

    3. YES—NGSS hits evolution, just as (again) Iowa Core does
    and other state science curricula.
    Again, evolution is the fundamentally unifying concept in biology. We use it everyday and YES (THANKFULLY)
    intelligent design is not mentioned, nor should or will it ever be. All intelligent design states is that some
    higher power i.e. an intelligent being is responsible for all the wonderful
    complexity in our living world. Now, is
    it possible that a higher power set in motion or “tinkered” with natural
    processes to allow the eye to evolve?
    Certainly! But, and this is a
    CRUCIAL distinction, science can not study this because it is outside the realm
    (it’s not natural) of what science can study.
    There is simply no way for science to test, to disprove this…hence, it
    can not be taught in schools and especially in a science course. Evolution is taught because there is an
    overwhelming body of evidence to support this.
    By the way, evolution is a theory, but not a “hunch” or “guess” as used
    by non-scientists. All of science relies
    on theories because theories are overarching explanations, based on repeated
    experiments, of our natural world. I
    always snicker when people (mostly politicians) say (with a level of
    disdain/ignorance) that evolution is “just a theory,” well, of course it is!!! We cannot “teach the controversy” because in
    science, there is no controversy; there is broad consensus that all life
    descended from a common ancestor. Science
    is about what you can learn from observations and experiments…how are we to
    learn from intelligent design? What
    could we possibly study that would allow us to accept this?

    On a side note, I have yet (in 14 years of teaching) had a
    group of students who demanded that we learn the controversy. Kids will surprise you! They want the evidence and are certainly not
    scared of it (unlike many adults, in my experience). One student said to the class, “you would
    never open the Bible to learn about mutation theory or protein synthesis, just
    like you would never open a science book to learn about man’s relationship with
    God.” Regarding the common ancestor
    concept, one student said, “I think it’s awesome that God made all living
    things related to one another, that we’re all part of this natural world.” By the way, the fact that all living
    organisms are related (supported by the fact that we share 35% of the same DNA
    as yeast) is another one of those ideas that has wide consensus in
    science. Another one of my favorite quotes
    from a student (after we visited the Omaha Zoo’s primate exhibition), “How can
    ANYONE not accept or see that we’re related to chimpanzees?” He was especially impressed when the chimps
    used straw as a tool to grab food that people had thrown at them (despite the
    sign that said not to).

    4. Ms. Jennings’s
    concern about “less” content, while I think it’s valid to pose the question,
    has already been addressed. In our
    meetings, we learned that even Iowa Core had less content as research
    overwhelmingly shows that “less content = better retention and more
    value.” You should have seen all the
    content I had to try to cover my first year teaching, talk about a mile long
    and an inch deep. NGSS goes for a deep,
    conceptual understanding, rather than superficial concepts that are quickly

    5. NGSS is certainly
    not perfect, but show me a curriculum that is!
    It certainly does a substantially better job of integrating other areas
    (engineering, math, reading) into science and intertwining learning progressions
    than any other curriculum I’ve ever seen.
    Again, this was all made explicit and thoroughly discussed in our NGSS
    taskforce meetings.

    I do apologize for the long response, but I felt it was
    necessary to submit a rebuttal and to clarify, even correct, many, many
    misconceptions and misunderstandings from Ms. Jennings’s letter and some of the
    comments. It is clear to me that a
    significant portion of the adult population does not fully understand how
    science works and that is the fault of our educational system and something
    that we need to work together on and to improve. It is overwhelmingly clear that the US is
    behind and will only fall further behind other nations in the areas of science
    unless we properly teach and understand science. Thank you!

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