Cheri Pierson Yecke, Florida’s new K-12 Chancellor of Education, and I were quoted in a recent Palm Beach Post article by Kimberly Miller.
Elsberry, of the National Center for Science Education, said that during the science rewrite in Minnesota, drafts of curriculum included “maybes” and “possibles” whenever evolution was mentioned. Elsberry said Yecke also gave the committee assigned to rewrite the curriculum a version of the No Child Left Behind Act that included a failed amendment referring to alternative theories to evolution.
Yecke said she gave the committee versions of the science curriculum given high ratings by the Fordham Foundation and Achieve. The Fordham Foundation is a conservative-based education think tank. The Web site of Achieve, an education improvement organization formed in part by state governors, says it is nonpartisan.
Dearest Cheri: whether you inundated the committee with every other standard used in the civilized world does not address the point at issue, which is whether you handed the committee the completely useless “Santorum language” with the implication that it had any legal force with respect to drawing up science standards. On this point, let’s consult another source, Dr. Melanie Reap and Jamie Crannell’s first-person piece on their experiences serving on Yecke’s science standards writing committee in Minnesota:
The Department of Education provided copies of “exemplary” state standards documents (ironically including Minnesota’s recently repealed Profile of Learning for Science! See previous link.). The general committee was also given a copy of the so called Santorum “Amendment.” This precipitated the first discussion of creationism/intelligent design and allowed for the identification of those in the group who supported intelligent design. The “Santorum Amendment” was the only legal advice given to the committee.
The first rough draft of the standards was sent to the Department of Education to be disseminated for public input. It took many of us by surprise when the published standards included a softening of several Nature/History of Science and Life Science standards through the insertion of such phrases as “may explain” and “might account for”; phrases never used by the committee. Through the efforts of several committee members these additions were made public and the Department of Education, in a statement by Commissioner Yecke, retracted the printed version for the original draft.
So, Cheri, would you mind actually addressing the point at issue sometime soon? While it may be too much to hope for responsibility-shouldering for the various problems in the Minnesota science standards process, it would be good to get an explicit indication that Florida is not being set up for a repeat of recent history. Until the education administrators clearly say that science classrooms are only open to those ideas that have passed scientific muster and that they will avoid using legal language that was considered and specifically set aside by the US Congress, Florida’s citizens need to beware of the dangers of playing “trust me” roulette with science education in the state.