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Utah school leaders are just starting the thorny process of updating the state's science education standards.
But already they've been warned not to repeat the "mistakes" of the Common Core.
One member of a committee appointed to review the standards cautioned State School Board members Thursday against adopting education guidelines written outside the state. In 2010, Utah adopted national standards for English and mathematics.
"They're really just a cut-and-paste," Vincent Newmeyer said.
School board members started an initial review of the proposed science standards at a meeting this week.
Newmeyer, one of 17 members of a standards review committee, said Utah's draft standards bear a strong resemblance to the Next Generation Science Standards, a series of educational guidelines drafted by national science experts.
He said the Next Generation standards are a complement to the Common Core State Standards, which were developed by a group of state leaders and education experts.
Most states voluntarily adopted the guidelines. But the Common Core has led to considerable controversy, with some groups accusing state education leaders of handing over local control of schools in favor of a national education agenda.
Utah's State School Board has maintained support of the Common Core, which is designed to better prepare students for higher education and careers beyond high school.
Newmeyer said the state would be better served by continuing to rely on locally-produced science guidelines.
"Our standards that we currently have, though they need updating, they really have served us quite well," he said.
Frank Strickland, a Utah geologist, also criticized the draft standards for what he described as flawed science. In particularly, he referenced a standard that includes language about human activity contributing to global climate change.
He said many scientists believe global temperature fluctuations could be the result of solar flares, as similar fluctuations have been observed on neighboring planets. It's important that school teachers be allowed to discuss scientific theory in a context that includes dissenting viewpoints, Strickland said.
"You can't accuse Mars and other planets of having human activity," he said. "Don't just accept what's coming down the pipe from above."
School board leaders emphasized that the draft science standards are only preliminary and will be subject to further review throughout the year.
Board member Joel Wright, whose district includes much of Utah County, said that many of his constituents have expressed concern that the science standards are being written to fit the state's new SAGE testing system, rather than the best interest of students.
But Sarah Young, a science specialist with the Utah State Office of Education, said the computer-based SAGE test allows for a more in-depth assessment because it is less reliant on multiple choice questions than previous tests.
She said that SAGE will be written to match the new standards, as opposed to the standards being designed to fit SAGE.
"As soon as we do have (new) standards, we will be going through the development of new SAGE items," she said.