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What Do The State Science Standards Say About Evolution and Intelligent Design?

Most state standards include teaching evolution in science classes.

By GreatSchools Staff

The Education Week Review

According to a 2005 Education Week survey of state science standards from 41 states, 39 state standards documents offer some description of biological evolution and how it accounts for the diversity of species that exist today, while 35 of these documents go further and give similar treatment to Darwin's principle of natural selection.

Education Week, a nonprofit publication that covers issues in education, reviewed the science standards of a large majority of the 50 states, comparing them against 10 concept statements about evolution in the National Science Education Standards.

Education Week found four states - Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, and Oklahoma - that do not mention the term "evolution," in their science standards.

Kansas goes back and forth on evolution

In November 2005 in Kansas, despite protests by Governor Kathleen Sebelius, the National Academy of Sciences and numerous others, the Kansas State Board of Education voted to adopt a draft set of state science standards that challenge the theory of evolution. The new standards will take effect in 2007, unless next year's elections cause a shift on the state school board, and a reversal of this decision. Several candidates have already come forward to challenge those school board members who voted for the new standards. Two national science groups demanded that their copyrighted material be removed from the standards document because of its approach to evolution.

Kansas has a history of battles over evolution, with the victor depending on which side has a majority on the State Board of Education. Between 1999 and 2001, the board removed and then later reinstated references to evolution in the state science standards.

Ohio adds critical analysis of evolution into state standards

In 2002 in Ohio, the "Critical Analysis of Evolution" model lesson plan was created to implement a benchmark in the Ohio state science standards that requires students to be able to "describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory." The standards also clearly state that they do not endorse teaching intelligent design.

What is included on state science tests?

Out of 20 states that responded to a 2005 Education Week survey about questions on state standardized science tests, none included questions about intelligent design in their high school science state tests. Of the respondents, 17 said they had at least one question on the high school assessment that dealt with evolution.

The Fordham Foundation Review

The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports research, publications and projects in education reform, released a review of the science standards for each of the 50 states in December 2005. According to this review, 19 states earned honors for having clear and rigorous science standards. Although that might not seem like a lot, more than half of U.S. children reside in these 19 states. Fifteen states received failing grades, indicating they have no real standards or have standards that are so vague and weak as to be "meaningless." The remaining 15 states received a "C" or "D," meaning average or below average. Only one state, Iowa, was not included because it does not have science standards.

The Fordham Foundation concluded that since its previous report in 2000, the nation as a whole has neither lost nor gained ground in its science expectations for students. "This flat line trend at the national level is worrisome, especially as America's world competitors make their own countries' science education a major focus," states the executive summary of the report.


Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

02/25/2008:
"Note this excerpt from 'An Interview with Mr. John Calvert on Intelligent Design' (http://www.tfp.org/TFPForum/Tendential_Revolution/interview_with_john_calvert.htm): 'Science is theoretical and religion is dogmatic. In religion, you cannot argue with certain tenets that are accepted by faith. In science, every explanation should be open to criticism and revision. Science is inherently skeptical—and it should be. For example, evolution's contention that life is not a product of Intelligent Design should be open inherently to question. 'When that 'unspoken' rule is used to exclude Intelligent Design, evolution ceases to be theoretical. It becomes a dogma or an ideology, and the use of that 'unspoken' rule actually takes evolution out of science and into theology. For evolution to be scientific, it has to accept the challenge of Intelligent Design."
12/17/2007:
"Evolution is science. Intelligent design -- warmed over 'creation science' -- is religion. If you don't want to take the time or open your mind enough to learn the difference, that's fine. Think what you want, teach your own kids what you want. Teach them that the earth is 6,000 years old. That the dinosaur fossils were put there by God to test our faith. Throw in that the world is flat while you're at it. But not in my public schools, and not to my kids. And about the founding fathers -- try reading what Jefferson and many of the other founding fathers said about religion and government. Not what your pastor said they said, but what they actually said. You may be surprised to find that you are Thomas Jefferson's worst nightmare. I'm so sick of these creation science pushers constantly trying to drag us back to the middle ages. God gave you a brain -- don't you think he'd be pleased if you tried using it?"
08/14/2006:
"Very few proponents of Evolution are trying to convince people to not have faith. Science cannot prove that God exists, and it does not try. We can believe in God, and we can believe in Evolution too. They are not mutually exclusive. Personally, I don't think you want someone teaching your child about God in public schools because they might teach ideas that you completely disagree with! Evolution is accepted because there is evidence to support it. All we need to believe in God is faith. Intelligent Design is a BELIEF to be taught at home and at church, but Evolution is a THEORY (a well-tested concept that explains a wide range of observations)with supporting evidence. It should be taught in schools. To not believe in Evolution is not like saying you don't believe in the tooth fairy. Its more like saying you don't believe in hammers. Keep your faith, Science isn't here to take over for God. "
03/3/2006:
"The complete title of Darwin's book is 'On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.' It might be argued that evolution supports racism by suggesting that not all men are created equal. The founding fathers of America would not be happy with the way 'seperation of church and state' is being applied. Evolution has become a 'religion' that is being forced upon young minds that have not been given any alternative basis to form an educated opinion. I hope America wake's up. The leaders of tomorrow have been indoctrinated in the religion of secular humanism, devoid of the faith of our fathers that gave their all for this nation. Parents should not have to fight the educational institutions to have Intelligent Design presented as an equally valid interpretation of the Scientific evidence for Origins. "
02/21/2006:
"On your discussion of evolution; I am a physician and considered to be educated as far as our American standards are concerned however the idea that our earth was created (as another option besides evolution) is simply stating that. NO ONE is trying to push further than that. I personally don't understand what the big deal is with evolutionist who insist on it being their way when they have holes in their own theories. The world (and especially) America has reached a sad place because we are more concerned about competition and getting ahead and we are teaching are kids to become so aggressive that they have missed the simple points of life and that is that our lives are not about materialism, careers and those activities leading to self centeredness. Thank goodness for those who are willing to step beyond the bandwagon and make a bold statement for the God who created us."
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