Archive for TAKS

Victory in Texas for Science? Not quite…

Posted in Education, Evolution, Texas with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 24, 2009 by airtightnoodle

Earlier this week the Texas state board of education agreed to strike the phrase “strengths and weaknesses” from the current science standards.  This move was cheered and celebrated by many scientists and teachers all over the state. 

However, on Friday, January 23, the state board looked at the issue again and decided that students should have to evaluate a variety of fossil types and assess the arguments against universal common descent.

On one hand, I feel like saying…ok!  Send me some fossils so I can teach that (hey, I’d love to have more fossils for free in my class).  But of course, it wouldn’t work like that if this proposal gets passed. 

This proposal is completely unscientific and is in the same spirit as the “strengths and weaknesses” clause that was struck down.  What is even more amazing to me, personally, is that at least before this creationists/intelligent designer proponents could make the argument that they weren’t singling out evolution–they wanted to teach the strengths and weaknesses of ALL theories (which of course for the most part wasn’t true, but they could still make that argument).  This new proposal is blatantly singling out evolution. 

Not surprisingly, chairman Don McLeroy, a self-proclaimed creationist, also added the following:

Also added to the proposed standards by board Chairman Don McLeroy, R-Bryan, is an amendment that directs science teachers and students to “describe the sufficiency or insufficiency of common ancestry to explain the sudden appearance, stasis and sequential nature of groups in the fossil record.”

Board member Barbara Cargill had a lot to say as well.  Recall that I recently contacted Ms. Cargill asking her to explain some of her recent comments in an editorial from a Texas newspaper.  She has never responded.

One board member who pushed for the change said that fossil records create scientific evidence against universal common descent — and students should be allowed to study the possibility.

“There are many, many gaps that don’t link species changing and evolving into another species, so we want our students to get all of the science, and we want them to have great, open discussions and learning to respect each other’s opinions,” said Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, a former science teacher.

She scoffed at claims that social conservatives on the 15-member board were just trying to find another way to expose students to creationism — the belief that life, Earth and the universe were created by a supreme being.

“This isn’t about religion. I don’t know how many times we have to say it before people accept it,” she said. “It’s about science. We want to stick to the science.”

As usual, Ms. Cargill seems to assume that teachers who WANT  to teach evolution properly are trying to censor their students’ thoughts and opinions.  Of course a good teacher wants students to be able to ask questions and respect others’ opinions.  However, this move is certainly about religion.  It’s not about science, because what these board members are proposing to teach students isn’t backed by the scientific community.

There is still hope, however.  The board will not take a final vote on these newly proposed science standards until March. 

You can read more about the issue here.

Take action to support science in Texas!

Posted in Education, Evolution, Texas with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 20, 2009 by airtightnoodle

From the Texas Freedom Network:

This Wednesday the State Board of Education will hear public testimony on proposed science curriculum standards. The new draft standards reject efforts by creationists to undermine instruction on evolution. They also make it clear that supernatural explanations like creationism/”intelligent design” have no place in public school science classes. But creationists who control the state board are insisting that the standards require students to learn phony “weaknesses” of evolution. They want to force publishers to include those bogus arguments in new biology textbooks.

Take Action!

Help us turn back efforts to sabotage the education of Texas schoolchildren by standing up for science this week!SUFS

  • Click here to sign up to testify before the State Board of Education IN SUPPORT OF THE DRAFT STANDARDS at the public hearing on Wednesday. The board will hear only four hours of testimony. But even if you don’t get a chance to speak, adding your name in support of the draft standards is very important. Also, supporters of the draft standards will WEAR GREEN at the hearing to show their support for a sound science education.
  • Tell your state board member that you SUPPORT the draft science standards and OPPOSE efforts to water down the curriculum by opening the door to phony attacks against evolution. Click here to find the name and contact information for your State Board of Education member. Once you have the name of your board member, you can also click here to send an e-mail to him or her in care of the Texas Education Agency.
  • Donate to the Texas Freedom Networks’ Stand Up for Science campaign. Your contribution will help ensure that the next generation of Texas schoolchildren gets a 21st-century science education that helps them succeed in college and the jobs of the future.

 

When voting on Tuesday, don’t forget about voting for the State Board of Education!

Posted in Education, Evolution, Texas with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 2, 2008 by airtightnoodle

Here is an article about the candidates running in my area, district 8, for Texas State Board of Education. 

Note that the incumbent, Barbara Cargill, advocates “teaching the controversy”.

Texas scientists want religion, politics out of science curriculum

Posted in Education, Texas with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 6, 2008 by airtightnoodle

Thanks to Jimpithecus at Science and Religion, I found the following article from the Houston Chronicle regarding the science TEKS. 

A group of Texas scientists are worried that the state board of education will insist on keeping the “strengths and weaknesses” clause in the Texas standards for biology education.  Currently this phrase is not found in the proposal for the new TEKS. 

David Hillis from the University of Texas summed up the feelings of scientists and science educators across the state well by saying:

“We are here to support and promote strong, clear, modern science education in Texas schools,” said David Hillis, professor of integrative biology at the University of Texas at Austin. “Texas public schools should be preparing our kids to succeed in the 21st century, not promoting political and ideological agendas that are hostile to a sound science education.”

However, the article also states that:

A panel of experts recently recommended the “strengths and weaknesses” provision remain in astronomy and chemistry but be removed from the updated science curriculum.

Who is this “panel of experts”, and why did they recommend for the provision to remain in certain areas? 

As mentioned previously on this blog, the TEKS will not be voted on until next spring.

More on the proposed TEKS revisions

Posted in Education, Evolution, Texas with tags , , , , , , , , on October 5, 2008 by airtightnoodle

Being that I am short on time and my blog focuses mainly on evolution, I am only going to comment on the TEKS I feel are related to this topic. 

For those unaware, TEKS are the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills.  These are the objectives all teachers must cover in class.  You may view the current Biology TEKS here.  The proposed revisions are found here.

The first two parts of the introduction remain largely the same.  When speaking of systems, a minor revision is found at the end of the paragraph:

These patterns help to make inferences about past events, predict what will happen next and can change over time.

The current statement is:

These patterns help to predict what will happen next and can change over time.

Not a big change, in my opinion.

However, in the proposed revisions, the next paragraph is entirely new:

Science uses observational evidence to make predictions of natural phenomena and to construct testable explanations. If ideas are based upon purported forces outside of nature, they cannot be tested using scientific methods. Scientific explanations are open to testing under different conditions, over time, and by independent scientific researchers. Many theories in science are so well established that no new evidence is likely to alter them substantially; however, they are subject to continuing refinement as new areas of science emerge or as new technologies enable observations and experiments that were not possible previously (National Academy of Sciences, 2008, pp. 10-11).

Wow, what a bold statement!  And an entirely necessary statement, in my opinion.  Science has nothing to say about forces outside of nature because science examines the NATURAL world.  Science cannot say anything about the existence or nonexistence of God or any intelligent designer, for example.  I really like this addition because it clearly demonstrates that ideas related to the above are not scientific and do not belong in science curriculum.

The current TEKS related specifically to evolution state the following:

(7)  Science concepts. The student knows the theory of biological evolution. The student is expected to:

(A)  identify evidence of change in species using fossils, DNA sequences, anatomical similarities, physiological similarities, and embryology; and

(B)  illustrate the results of natural selection in speciation, diversity, phylogeny, adaptation, behavior, and extinction.

These have been expanded to give a much more detailed explanation of evolution:

(7) Science concepts. The student knows evolutionary theory is an explanation for the diversity of life. The student is expected to:
(A) identify how evidence of common ancestry among groups is provided by the fossil record, biogeography, and homologies including anatomical, molecular, physiological, behavioral and developmental;
(B) recognize that natural selection produces change in populations, not individuals; 

(C) describe the elements of natural selection including inherited variation, the potential of a population to produce more offspring than can survive, and a finite supply of environmental resources resulting in differential reproductive success;
(D) recognize the significance of natural selection to adaptation, and to the diversity of species; and
(E) analyze the results of other evolutionary mechanisms including genetic drift, gene flow, mutation, and recombination.

I approve of the expansion, personally.  There is much about evolution that is not currently covered in the TEKS.  This will hold teachers accountable to teach the theory more fully.  Students deserve a good education in the theory, whether they wind up personally believing in it or not.

Keep in mind these are the PROPOSED revisions.  These will not be voted on for several months.  Stay tuned.

First draft of Texas science standards (TEKS) available online

Posted in Education, Evolution with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 28, 2008 by airtightnoodle

The first draft of the newly proposed science TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) is now available for viewing online.  You can view the proposals here.

Keep checking the site as supposedly they will soon be asking for input on these proposed TEKS.

Science standards revision time! Get ready, Texans!

Posted in Education with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 12, 2008 by airtightnoodle

The Texas State Board of Education is getting ready to revise the science TEKS (for those out of state: Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills; basically, the science education standards for the state).  The following comes from the TABT (Texas Association of Biology Teachers).  A similar statement has been released by STAT (Science Teachers Association of Texas).

In an unprecedented move in the last round of English Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) updates, the State Board of Education (SBOE) rejected three years of revision work completed by highly competent Texas English teachers. At the last minute, the SBOE substituted and approved a substitute document submitted by a few members of the SBOE. Please let your SBOE member and state legislature know that you are concerned with any efforts to ignore the revision work of the Texas science teachers.

TABT members are urged to contact their SBOE member and ask for support for quality science education before the July 17 SBOE meeting. At this meeting, the timeline for the revision of the Science TEKS will be established.  For information on how to contact your SBOE member for your district, go directly to TEA at http://www.tea.state.tx.us/sboe/members.html.