Evolution Teaching 'Improving' in Schools, Report Says

But researchers say supporters of creationism aim to undermine it through jargon.

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Science standards today tend to cover evolution more extensively than they did a decade ago, but "certain types of creationist language are also becoming more common in state standards," says a review of the standards of all 50 states and the District of Columbia, published online last week.

Conducted by the National Center for Science Education, the study graded the treatment of evolution in each state's standards on an A-to-F scale, and revealed 40 states received satisfactory marks. Published this month in the journal Evolution: Education and Outreach, the review was intended to update a similar evaluation of science standards conducted by the Washington, D.C., nonprofit Thomas B. Fordham Foundation in 2000, which gave satisfactory grades to only 31 states.

The NCSE researchers contend that while those who support creationism might realize they probably can't get evolution removed from state standards, they do try to ensure that language is inserted that casts doubt on the theory or gives teachers license to use materials that criticize evolution.

On its Web site, NCSE describes itself as an organization "providing information and resources for schools, parents and concerned citizens working to keep evolution in public school science education."

Some critics say that the nonprofit group is taking too narrow a view of science education in singling out evolution coverage.

"It would seem to me that K-12 science education is a broad area, and if they focus on one very narrow area of teaching, the grade [given in the study] doesn't mean very much," said Gail A. Lowe, chairwoman of the Texas Board of Education, in an interview with Education Week.

Texas received an F for its evolution instruction, because while its treatment was "generally comprehensive," the standards included "creationist jargon." Instances of language that the report deemed to be jargon included such instructions as, "In all fields of science, analyze, evaluate, and critique scientific explanations by using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing."

But Lowe doesn't consider such language to be jargon. She feels that students should be required to do analysis, rather than "parrot back isolated facts that someone wants them to know about evolutionist theory."

Alabama, Louisiana, Oklahoma and West Virginia also received failing grades. Nine states and the District of Columbia received an A for their treatment of evolution.

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K-12 education