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State Model Curriculum
Legislative Update
Melanie Elsey,
Ohio Roundtable Legislative Director
March 10th, 2004


LESSON PLAN PASSES

The State Board of Education approved on a "final vote" Set A of the model lessons for science on March 9th with a vote of 13-5.  This set contains ONE lesson that provides an opportunity for students to critically analyze Darwin's theory of  macroevolution [descent from a common ancestor].  The board listened to testimony from more than 50 witnesses over approximately six hours before deliberating on the model lesson.

A motion to remove the "Critical Analysis" lesson was made by board member Rob Hovis, which failed 10-7-1.  He claimed that the lesson was a "religious effort, cloaked as science," even though the lesson contains no religious statements whatsoever.  The lesson, including some revisions, was approved by the full board, 13-5.

It is very IMPORTANT to understand that the lesson contains only the scientific challenge to macroevolution.  There is NO religious content and NO promotion of any alternative theories, including intelligent design.

THANKS TO EVERYONE who became involved on this issue!!  Without the engagement of the public, this important policy decision would not have had such a favorable result!!  The involvement of citizens can make a difference!!


BACKGROUND INFORMATION?

  • The State Board of Education approved science standards [December 2002] which included one instructional indicator and assessment benchmark allowing for students to understand both sides of the evidence regarding Darwin's theories on biological evolution.  It simply states, "Describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory."  Prior to the 17-0 vote in 2002, board members were reminded that this wording meant that students would be presented with scientific evidence that supports and does not support evolutionary theory.
     
  • The next step was to develop model science lessons aligned to the standards.  The board must approve all model science lessons by June 2004.  The full model has been divided into 5 sets and will be approved in sections between now and June.
     
  • At their February 2004 meeting the State Board approved set A on a vote of intent [13-4].  The final vote on this set, which includes 3 lessons pertaining to the critical analysis of evolution, is scheduled for the March 9, 2004.  Two of the 3 lessons provide instruction in microevolution [changes within a species], a concept which is not controversial.
     
  • Only ONE of the proposed 3 lessons makes the distinction between microevolution and macroevolution.  It asks students to "evaluate the scientific data supporting and challenging [five] areas of evolution." 
     
  • The model lesson does NOT contain any direct mandate for teaching intelligent design.  This is consistent with the board's intent in approving the standard to critically analyze evolutionary theory in December 2002.
     
  • The model lesson allows student to research the evidence and develop critical thinking skills.
     
  • Between May and August 2002, the Ohio Department of Education received over 20,000 responses from the public on the standards to teach the controversy on evolution.  More than 75% of the responses favored teaching Darwin AND the evidence that is critical of macroevolution.  This level of response was unprecedented in the history of the work of the State Board of Education!!
     
  • The Ohio State Board of Education was required under SB 1 [2001] to adopt Model Lessons in Science (section 3301.079(B) of the Ohio Revised Code). The board split over 200 drafted lessons into five sets (A-E) for close review prior to voting.  Set A is the first of five sets and is required to be aligned with state science standards, approved in December 2002.
     
  • Set A includes one lesson, entitled "Critical Analysis of Evolution" for grade 10, which became a lightning rod for the controversy in teaching both sides of macroevolution within Biology.   
     
  • There were actually three lessons written to address the standard and testing benchmark, requiring students to "describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory."  Two of these lessons focused on microevolution (changes within a species)- "Fancy Fish, Gene Frequency" and "Scientists, Wolves, and the United States Government."
     
  • The "Critical Analysis of Evolutionary Theory" lesson was the ONLY lesson proposed to address the public sentiment that students be allowed to understand both sides of the evolution controversy, including evidence that would challenge the fundamentals of Darwin's theory.

Actual Model Lesson

 

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HOW THEY VOTED

STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION DISTRICT MAPS:
http://www.ode.state.oh.us/board/      

Note, Board member Virginia Jacobs was absent due to health reasons.

1.  Newest member, Rob Hovis [district 5], moved to DELETE the lesson from Set A.  He stated that intelligent design is not science and this lesson is built on a framework of intelligent design and "embraced by that movement."  Mr. Hovis further stated, "I am convinced that this is a religious effort cloaked as science" and "Ohio is blessed with many evolutionary biologists" that would be capable of writing an alternative lesson.  He also described this lesson as the "thin end of a wedge" to get religious viewpoints into the classroom.

VOTE on Mr. Hovis' amendment [10-7-1]:
YES:
Hovis, Wise, Schloemer, Brown, Griffin, Richardson, Stewart
NO:
Baker, Cochran, Craig, Millet, Fink, Thatcher, Turner, Westendorf, Wick, Sheets
ABSTAIN:
Ross

2.  Standards Committee Co-chair, Jim Craig moved to amend the lesson with some changes in response to letters from the Ohio Academy of Science.  The changes included the removal of most of the internet websites in the resource portion of the lesson and some other technical changes to the accuracy of the lesson.  These changes did not impact the core focus of the lesson to present both sides of the controversy.

VOTE on Mr. Craig's amendment [16-2]:
YES:
Baker, Cochran, Craig, Millet, Fink, Thatcher, Turner, Westendorf, Wick, Sheets, Hovis, Brown, Griffin, Richardson, Stewart, Ross
NO:
Wise, Schloemer

3.  Final VOTE on the approval of set A [13-5]:
YES:
Baker, Cochran, Craig, Millet, Fink, Thatcher, Turner, Westendorf, Wick, Sheets, Brown, Griffin, Ross
NO:
Hovis, Wise, Schloemer, Stewart, Richardson

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ACTION

Please consider sending one more message to board members as a follow-up to their vote. 

1.  Please express your appreciation to members who withstood tremendous pressure (from those advocating an evolution-only approach) to vote in favor of academic freedom for Ohio students!!

2.  Please express your disappointment to members who voted no. Every one of them misinterpreted the approach to allow students to understand the full range of scientific views as a "thinly veiled" attempt to sneak any one particular religious view into the classroom.

3.  Board president Jennifer Sheets, members Deborah Owens-Fink, Mike Cochran, and Jim Turner ALL need to especially be commended for their leadership on this issue.

Contact information for individual board members can be obtained from http://www.ode.state.oh.us/board/

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