Fordham on evolution in state science standards


The State of State Science Standards 2012 (PDF), published by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, is a new report offering a survey and evaluation of the state science standards in all fifty states plus the District of Columbia. Among the major problems across the country: "An Undermining of Evolution."

"While many states are handling evolution better today than in the past, anti-evolution pressures continue to threaten state science standards," the Fordham reviewers observe, citing in particular the "infamous Science Education Act" enacted in Louisiana in 2008. "Though the act is a free-standing statute with no direct link to the Pelican State's academic standards, it does damage by allowing for the introduction of creationist teaching supplements — thereby affecting classroom instruction without explicitly altering the state's standards."

State science standards failed to treat evolution adequately in a number of ways, according to the report — by including evolution only in courses that are electives or in guidelines not subject to state assessment, as in Missouri, Tennessee, and Maryland; by suggesting that evolution is "somehow not quite as 'scientific' as other concepts," as in Colorado, Missouri, Montana, and West Virginia; or by unnecessarily delaying evolution until high school, as in Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, and Nebraska.

Especially worrisome was the absence of human evolution from the vast majority of the state standards, the Fordham reviewers explained. "This marks a subtle but important victory for creationists: Even states with thorough and appropriate coverage of evolution (e.g., Massachusetts, Utah, and Washington) shy away from linking the controversial term with ourselves. Only four states — Florida, New Hampshire, Iowa, and Rhode Island — openly embrace human evolution in their current science standards."

Fordham's reviewers were Lawrence S. Lerner, Ursula Goodenough, John Lynch, Martha Schwartz, and Richard Schwartz. The State of State Science Standards 2012 also contains a review of the Science Framework for the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress by Paul R. Gross and a foreword by Chester E. Finn Jr. and Kathleen Porter-Magee.