Today (19 February 2008), by a 4-to-3 vote the Florida State Board of Education approved new science standards that include — for the first time — the term “evolution.” These new standards replace the 1996 Sunshine State Standards for Science, widely criticized by science education experts for their deficiencies. The version accepted by the Board today, however, did include a last minute addition of the words “scientific theory of” to precede evolution and other major scientific concepts (e.g., cells, atoms, plate tectonics, and electromagnetism) in each Big Idea or Benchmark described in the standards. (http://www.fcrstem.org/Uploads/1/docs/FLDOE/K-12_Proposal2ScienceStandards.pdf)

The newly adopted standards were written by a committee of parents, scientists, and educators, and clearly state: “Evolution is the fundamental concept underlying all of biology and is supported by multiple forms of scientific evidence.”

The draft standards were open to written public comment through 19 December 2007, and the Florida Department of Education received thousands of comments both praising and denouncing the standards. Education officials organized several public hearings, the last of which occurred 11 February 2008 in Orlando. Despite high marks from Dr. Lawrence Lerner, an expert on statewide science education standards at the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, and the scientific community, the proposed science standards evoked vocal opposition. Eleven county school boards adopted resolutions calling for evolution to be taught as theory, not fact. Additionally, the proposed standards were opposed by the Florida Baptist Convention, the Christian Coalition of Florida, the Community Issues Council, and the Florida Family Policy Council.

AIBS commented on the draft standards on 8 February 2008 with a letter to each member of the State Board of Education. The letter is available at: http://www.aibs.org/position-statements/20080208february2008_a.html

Immediately prior to the 19 February vote, the State Board permitted one hour of public comment, where 10 representatives from each side were allowed to comment for three minutes each. Following this public comment period, the Board engaged in a sometimes heated debate prior to approving the standards. The Board-approved standards do include the phrase “scientific theory of.” The added verbiage was a compromise proposed by Eric Smith, Commissioner of Education, who said it helped “clarify for our classroom teachers how to address these concepts.”

 


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