Reports of the National Center for Science Education

Testimony Before the Texas State Board of Education

Mr Chairman, members of the board, thank you for the chance to speak with you about the draft science TEKS.

The science TEKS on the books now were given an F in a 2005 survey of state science standards by the politically conservative Thomas Fordham Institute, noting that "they produce breadth of assertion instead of depth of understanding."

The TEKS presented by your expert writing committees addressed many of those problems. For instance, they replaced inaccurate and misleading references to "strengths and weaknesses" with a more accurate description of the scientific process.

On behalf of the students, parents, teachers, and scientists represented by the National Center for Science Education, thank you for voting to uphold that decision. You showed the respect this body has for the expertise of Texan scientists and educators.

I am not alone in praising that decision. I am proud to present you with these letters and statements signed by over 60 scientific and educational societies, all thanking you for listening to the experts on your writing committees about leaving "weaknesses" out of the standards. I know of no such society opposing that decision.

I am confident you will show the same respect for these scientists' and teachers' concerns over some amendments which you passed in January.

Fifty-four societies, from the American Institute for Biological Sciences and the National Science Teachers Association to the Biotechnology Institute and the Society of Sedimentary Geology signed a statement drafted by NCSE urging you to remove and reject amendments which single out evolution for scrutiny beyond that applied to other scientific theories, or which inaccurately and misleadingly describing these ideas as scientifically controversial. We're especially concerned by references to "sudden appearance," which may sound confusingly similar to creationist rhetoric about "abrupt appearance" to the untrained ears of a student, just as references elsewhere to "arguments against universal common descent" may be taken as a call for creationist claims that go beyond the standards' clear statement about the limits of science.

I'd be happy to go into further details of my concerns about these amendments if you have any questions.

The National Center for Science Education and these many scientific societies urge the board to delay or reject outright any further amendments which have not been reviewed by your writing committees and the community of Texas scientists and educators. Do not be distracted by discredited creationist claims such as that microbes are irreducibly complex or that the Cambrian Explosion is inexplicable. Do not single out evolution or related concepts in geoscience for scrutiny beyond that given to every other scientific topic.

Texas students deserve a world-class education, and this revision process could move them toward that goal … or hold them back. Please, listen to the voices of scientists and educators, listen to the writing committees you chose, and restore and protect honest science in the TEKS.

[This statement was presented to the Texas state board of education on March 25, 2009.]

By Joshua Rosenau
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