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Idaho to delay submitting new science standards

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BOISE, Idaho (AP) — State officials say new K-12 science standards — which include for the first time references to global warming and the Big Bang theory — won't be submitted to the conservative Idaho Legislature until 2018 after receiving a surprise rejection from lawmakers earlier this year.

Lawmakers spiked the first version of the standards in February after criticism built at the beginning of the session that the Idaho Department of Education violated state laws while forming them. No evidence of wrongdoing was ever proven, but both lawmakers and the agency received accusations that the new standards did not mention creationism and skewed too heavily on topics like human involvement in climate change and evolution.

The state has since agreed to start the process over again, and this time it's taking a slower pace.

"It's just a decision from the executive team here to ensure that we are reviewing them thoroughly," said Jeff Church, spokesman for the education agency. "We just want to make sure they're fully vetted."

No other standard on classroom standards is being given the same scrutiny. The agency will hand over proposed standards on English, mathematics, humanities and other subjects to the state board of education for review later this week, if approved they will be sent to the Idaho Legislature for final approval.

Content standards are reviewed every six years, but Idaho's science section hasn't changed since 2006, even though they have long been criticized for being too vague and lacked depth. For example, Idaho's current standards ask students in K-3 grades to "make observations" and "use cooperation and interaction skills."

Under the new proposals, the standards call for hands-on exercises and performance expectations.

After the legislative session adjourned, the state began collecting new public comments by holding meetings across the state. Now a review committee will evaluate the standards over the next year.

The 17-member review committee is made up primarily of teachers and school administrators, but it also includes a member who is a creationism advocate who opposes the theory of evolution.

"If the goal is to put more kids in the (science, technology, engineering and math) pipeline then I feel like these standards met that goal," said another review committee member, Jason George, who leads the science department at Vision Charter School in Caldwell. "The current standards are vague and don't give a lot of direction."

Fellow committee member Chris Taylor, with Boise Independent School District, said that he plans on taking the extra year given by the department to meet with lawmakers to address any concerns about science standards.

"There's still some issues legislators have with some of the terms used in the new standards, but we're hopeful we can take this time to educate and let them know why we need to consider these, especially in the world of STEM and getting our students to think and act like scientists," he said.

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