Progress in South Carolina?


"The state Board of Education gave initial approval to a new set of science standards Wednesday, although some board members tried to overturn the vote out of concern over whether the new guidelines leave room for students' religious beliefs on the origin of life," reported the Greenville News (October 9, 2013).

The standards under consideration are a revision of the standards adopted in 2005, which the Fordham Institute graded (PDF) as A- in its 2012 evaluation of state science standards. According to the Fordham study, "at the high school level, evolution is treated excellently and the support documents are exemplary."

The new draft South Carolina standards are not the Next Generation Science Standards. Indeed, in 2012 the state legislature adopted a budget that prohibited the state from using funds to "participate in, implement, adopt, or promote" the NGSS, as Education Week's Curriculum Matters blog (June 29, 2012) then explained

During public comments, a representative of South Carolina Parents Involved in Education asked the board, "Are the new science standards what South Carolina needs right now?" She answered no, complaining that the standards have a "materialistic bias" about the origin of life and accusing them of seeking "to indoctrinate rather than inform."

In response, Robert Dillon, a professor of biology at the College of Charleston and the founding president of South Carolinians for Science Education, told the board that the new standards are excellent as drafted and should be approved. The new science standards are indeed what South Carolina needs right now, he added.

Several members of the board then expressed concern about specific aspects of the standards. Michael Brenan enquired whether the concept of "irreducible complexity" was included in the standards, for example, and Danny Varat suggested that a standard about climate change was "leading toward a predetermined conclusion."

On the Facebook page of South Carolinians for Science Education, Robert Dillon was gloomy about the prospects of the standards, writing, "I was disappointed by much of the discussion in the State Board of Education meeting yesterday afternoon. I'm afraid our new draft science standards face a bumpy road to approval."

"The standards now will go to the state Education Oversight Committee and come back to the state Board of Education for final action early next year," the Greenville News explained. "If they are approved on second reading then, they would go into use in the 2014-15 school year."

Updated on October 15, 2013, to correct the attribution of the "irreducible complexity" enquiry in the sixth paragraph; although the Greenville News attributed it to Jim Griffiths, a review of the video shows that it was offered by Michael Brenan. Thanks to Robert Dillon for the correction.