Evolution and climate change in Oklahoma's new science standards

When the Oklahoma legislature adjourned on May 15, 2020, a new set of state science standards (PDF), which the Oklahoma state board of education previously approved on February 27, 2020, was approved by default.

The treatment of evolution and climate change was improved and expanded in the new standards owing to the input of "hundreds of Oklahoma science teachers from public schools and universities," according to The Oklahoman (February 29, 2020).

The e-word — "evolution" — is unabashedly used: for example, a high school standard for biology expects students to be able to "[c]ommunicate scientific information that common ancestry and biological evolution are supported by multiple lines of empirical evidence."

Anthropogenic climate change is also straightforwardly acknowledged: for example, a disciplinary core idea in Earth Systems is that "Changes in the atmosphere due to human activity have increased carbon dioxide concentrations and thus affect climate."

In contrast, the old standards conspicuously avoided use of the e-word, and even their limited treatment of climate change was challenged by the legislature, which repeatedly tried but ultimately failed to block their adoption, as NCSE previously reported.

The new standards were submitted to the legislature for its approval on March 2, 2020. A resolution to approve the standards (House Joint Resolution 1041) passed the House on a 97-2 vote on May 13, 2020, but was not considered by the Senate before adjournment.

Oklahoma state law provides, "If the Legislature fails to adopt a joint resolution within thirty (30) legislative days following submission of the standards, the standards shall be deemed approved." Implementation is expected to begin during the 2020-2021 school year.

Glenn Branch
Short Bio

Glenn Branch is Deputy Director of NCSE.


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