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Science Standards Move Forward

The Board of Education in Ohio is preparing to approve new state standards for public school science classes. Proposed standards were approved by the Standards Committee on October 14, 2002 and forwarded to the full board for consideration and adoption before the end of the year. The topic of evolution has been by far the most contentious element in the science standards throughout their development. Most Ohio scientists and teachers who have been following events consider the new standards a great improvement over previous treatments, especially regarding evolution. For example, the word "evolution" will now appear in the standards and the topic will presumably be included in assessment tests to be based on these guidelines.

At the October meeting of the Board of Education some wording changes were introduced into the draft standards which NCSE and our Ohio members would like to see removed. For example, the board substituted a definition of science for the extant one listed in the tenth grade "Scientific Ways of Knowing" strand which reads: "Science is a systematic method of continuing investigation, based on observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, and theory building, which leads to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena." The extant definition limited scientific explanation to "natural explanations for natural phenomena", which would exclude religious explanations such as creation science and intelligent design.

Another change was to "Life Sciences grade 10", wherein a sentence was added: "Describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory." Of course, all scientific theories are under continuing investigation and analysis; it is the singling out of evolution for special treatment that is objectionable. Some Ohioans are afraid that this wording could encourage the teaching of intelligent design or creation science, the content of which consists largely of "evidence against evolution".

The Board of Education can still make any changes it sees fit before final standards adoption.