Local teacher helped develop draft science standards

By Trudy Balcom

tbalcom@rawlinstimes.com

RAWLINS — The Wyoming Department of Education is currently seeking public input on the Wyoming Science Content and Performance Standards — the first update to statewide science benchmarks since 2003.

Rawlins High School earth science teacher Leslie Urasky participated in the development of the standards as a member of the Content Review Committee that met in 2015.

Urasky, a PolarTREC Teacher to Antarctica in 2010-2011 and a NOAA Teacher at Sea in 2012, said that as a Wyoming native, she has “been surrounded by earth science (her) whole life.”

Before starting her career in education, Urasky worked as a geologist for the mining, oil and gas industry.

Urasky was invited to join the committee last year in part because she had also served on the 2013 science standards committee called Next Generation Science Standards.

The work of that content and standards committee found disfavor, Urasky said, with the state legislature due to its language on climate change.

Kari Eakins, communications director for the Wyoming Department of Education, said that the Legislature added a footnote to the 2014 budget that prohibited the review or adoption of the standards.

Saying she wanted to “see it through,” Urasky did not hesitate to join the committee for the most recent effort to update science standards.

Urasky said that the new standards are rigorous, and far more detailed than the previous standards.

“They don’t dictate curriculum, they set standards and standardize outcomes,” Urasky said. “It’s very important that students have general knowledge that’s standardized.”

The process for developing the new standards was different this time, Urasky noted, since people from business, parents and other community stakeholders participated on the committee.

“They were able to offer help with aspects of independent thinking and problem solving,” Urasky said.

Eakins said that all Wyoming residents are welcome to review the draft standards and comment on them. The Wyoming Department of Education will be hosting a series of meetings across the state to take comments in person; comments can also be made on the department’s website at https://edu.wyoming.gov/educators/standards/standards-review/.

Eakins said that the draft standards most must go through a few more steps in the review process before they go before Gov. Matt Mead for his signature.

By law, state educational standards are reviewed every nine years. The next review for science standards is scheduled for 2025.

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