Florida’s public school science standards are not in need of a tweak or pretty makeover. They need to be overhauled. The Thomas B. Fordham Institute gave Florida an ugly ol’ F for its science standards. In part, the review says:
Life sciences and evolution are given shorter shrift than any of the others. The E-word is sedulously avoided. Here, there are some loose, if not incorrect, generalities offered as standards: “… knows that the fossil record provides evidence that changes in the kinds of plants and animals in the environment have been occurring over time.” There is little in the way of useful guidance for teachers or others toward appropriate content in the biological sciences and especially in the history of life and the basic mechanisms of change.
And that’s just one portion. Read the report for more bad news if you haven’t read it all yet.
So, what’s the big deal? Who cares about this little ol’ science standards thing? Fluff up the words a bit and it will look like new, right?
No. Absolutely not! Go to this New York Times article, print it out and make copies. Send it to everyone in the state and rub their noses in it. Make sure everyone knows just how important this issue really is!
The article starts off relating how difficult a veteran teacher named Pat New had it when evolution was mentioned in the classroom, which happened to be all the time.
She isn’t sure how many questioned her teaching of evolution — perhaps a dozen parents, teachers and administrators and several students in her seventh-grade life science class. They sent e-mail messages and letters, stopped her in the hall, called board members, demanded meetings, requested copies of the PBS videos that she showed in class.
On April 25, 2005, during a meeting about parent complaints with her principal, Rick Conner, she recalled: “He took a Bible off the bookshelf behind him and said, ‘Patty I believe in everything in this book, do you?’ I told him, ‘I really feel uncomfortable about your asking that question.’ He wouldn’t let it go.’ ” The next day, she said, in the lunchroom, “he reached across the table, took my hand and said: ‘I accept evolution in most things but if they ever say God wasn’t involved I couldn’t accept that. I want you to say that, Pat.’ ”
Asked to comment during an interview here, Mr. Conner would say only, “I don’t want to talk about it.”
Four days after her encounter with the principal, Ms. New was summoned to a meeting with the superintendent, Dewey Moye, as well as the principal and two parents upset about her teaching evolution. “We have to let parents ask questions,” Mr. Moye told her. “It’s a public school. In a democracy people can ask questions.”
Ms. New said the parents, “badgered, got loud and sarcastic and there was no support from administrators.”
But Ms. New finally found a way to deflect the distracting, demoralizing assault on her classroom instruction: cite the state standards.
“It takes a lot to stand up and be willing to have people angry at you,” she said. But Ms. New did. She repeatedly urged her supervisors to read Georgia’s science standards, particularly S7L5, which calls for teaching evolution.
On May 5, 2005, she filled out a complaint to initiate a grievance under state law, writing that she was being “threatened and harassed” though “I am following approved curriculum.”
And parents’ rights? “I explained to parents that we’re following the state standards,” Mr. Moye said. “I said, ‘You can believe what you want, but we have to teach the standards.’ If they’re upset, they can take it up on the state level.”
Ms. New said that from then on, including the entire 2005-06 school year, she had no problem teaching evolution. “What saved me, was I didn’t have to argue evolution with these people. All I had to say was, ‘I’m following state standards.’ “
Can Florida teachers fall back on the standards?