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Montana educators adopt new science standards

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BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) – The Montana Board of Public Education has adopted new science standards for public school students that have benchmarks for what students need to know at certain grade levels.

The new standards don’t tell teachers what to teach, and local districts will still have control over their curriculum. The standards combine Indian Education for All, Montana’s constitutional requirement that schools teach about the state’s Native American history and contemporary culture.

“They are truly Montana’s science standards,” said Jael Prezeau, the Office of Public Instruction’s director of content standards and instruction.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau said committees that wrote the standards reviewed examples from 17 states.

Montana’s legislature has little power over Montana’s education standards, the Billings Gazette reported.

When a legislator threatened to defund Common Core, a federal education standard, in 2013, Juneau said that there was nothing to defund. The legislature didn’t dedicate any specific money to its implementation.

Angela McLean, the former lieutenant governor and chair of the Montana Board of Regents who now works for the Commissioner of Higher Education, praised members of committees who crafted the proposed Montana standards for their bravery.

Among the issues debated by the board were how to teach climate change and evolution, which Montana educators recommended be toned down.

“We’re trying not to force science on everybody – that this is the only way to believe it, but (instead teach) this is what science is,” said Scott Dubbs, the curriculum director for Lewistown who was involved in writing the proposed standards. “We’ve really tried to walk the fine line and not just rub things into peoples’ noses. I just think the critical part in that is respecting where each other is at.”

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