One of the main defenses of ID creationists on the Ohio State Board of Education is that in their “process”, the drafting of standards, benchmarks, and model lesson plans was vetted by several committees composed of scientists and educators. Father Michael Cochran brandished that argument during the January OBOE meeting, as did Jennifer Sheets, who was Board President during the development of standards and lesson plan. But processes can be subverted, Ms. Sheets, and this process was completely subverted. ODE packed the lesson plan writing committee with creationists and ignored its internal and external advisors and reviewers. And now we learn that ODE ignored the advice from members of its Science Content Standards Advisory Committee. And both sides on the Board claim they never heard about any of that!
In its addition of the “critical analysis” standard and benchmark the Board violated its own process. The benchmark at issue, H23 in the 10th grade life sciences standards, was inserted by the Board itself, not by the writing committee that was advised by the Science Content Standards Advisory Committee.
We know already that internal and external consultants to the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) repeatedly warned that the “critical analysis” model lesson plan was a rehash of old and oft-discredited creationist canards. Now we know that ODE was also warned about the “critical analysis” standard early in the process. There was no lack of forewarning to ODE; one wonders why those warnings did not get to the Board from ODE.
Yesterday in an open letter to Governor Taft (see below), 75% (24 of 32) of the members of the Science Content Standards Advisory Committee, composed of scientists and educators, agreed that the standard is flawed.
The Ohio Board of Education accepted those standards in December 2002. The Board, however, added an indicator-benchmark singling out biological evolution from the rest of science by requiring students to “describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory”.
Many of us warned then that in singling out this one scientific theory that has historically been opposed by certain religious sects, the Board sent the message that it “believes there is some problem peculiar to evolution.” This message was unwarranted scientifically and pedagogically. We also noted that such wording created an opportunity to teach creationist misrepresentations of science to Ohio’s students. Indeed, such a lesson tied to this indicator was prepared and accepted by the Ohio Board of Education in March 2004. (Bolding added)
Moreover, at the January 2006 Board meeting, several creationist Board members argued that the model lesson plan and standard could be reviewed in future during the normal course of the “process” in ODE. However, when pressed, ODE senior management admitted that there is no such review process in place.
So there was a subverted writing process and there is no review process in place. Now only the Board can rectify its mistake. Governor Taft is to be commended for his recent stand, described here, on the undesirability of ID in Ohio public schools. Now he must follow through. His appointees were the main support for the creationist benchmark and lesson plan. They must rethink that support.
The full letter to Governor Taft is below the fold.
7 February 2006
The Honorable Bob Taft Governor of Ohio 77 South High St 30th Floor Columbus, OH 43215
Dear Governor Taft:
In 2001 Superintendent of Public Education Dr. Susan Tave Zelman asked us to serve on a committee to advise in the preparation of Ohio’s K-12 science content standards.
The Ohio Board of Education accepted those standards in December 2002. The Board, however, added an indicator-benchmark singling out biological evolution from the rest of science by requiring students to “describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory.Ã“
Many of us warned then that in singling out this one scientific theory that has historically been opposed by certain religious sects, the Board sent the message that it “believes there is some problem peculiar to evolution.” This message was unwarranted scientifically and pedagogically. We also noted that such wording created an opportunity to teach creationist misrepresentations of science to Ohio’s students. Indeed, such a lesson tied to this indicator was prepared and accepted by the Ohio Board of Education in March 2004.
Within the last six weeks Federal Judge John E. Jones III has determined that similarly motivated efforts by the Dover, PA school board are unconstitutional. At the same time the Ohio Department of Education released documents associated with the development of this lesson. These show that ODE’s own staff scientists repeatedly called portions of this lesson “a lie,” “wrong,” “inaccurate,” “oversimplified” and based on references they described as “highly religious,” “horrible,” and “non-scientific.” One reference was an outright creationist fabrication.
Our own review of the lesson finds it to be a pointed attempt to insert old and discredited creationist content in Ohio’s science classrooms. The pedagogy is weak at best, of negative, misleading and debilitating educational value. This lesson is devoid of scientific thinking or the scientific method. It is wholly without merit. And while the lesson’s authors assiduously avoided using the words “intelligent” and “design,” the lesson embodies intelligent design creationism poorly concealed in scientific sounding jargon. Such cheap ploys are a disservice to Ohio’s children and an insult to the intelligence of its good citizens. Nonetheless, this lesson, along with the associated science indicator, has passed because of overwhelming support by your appointees to the Ohio Board of Education.
Documents released by your office show that a member of the Ohio Board of Education worked “behind the scenes” and made threats “to bring the state down” on your office and the Board if this indicator-benchmark-lesson combination was not supported. The ODE documents show this threat was carried out and was effective.
Governor Taft, we compliment for your recent support of science-only standards and Model Curricula for Ohio’s children. Thank you for your efforts to improve education in Ohio and for all the efforts and hope you have placed in the “Third Frontier” and development of a high technology economy in Ohio, especially in the broad areas of biotechnology. However, we cannot envision how such development efforts can succeed when such blatant attempts to misuse and subvert the quality of public education in Ohio are permitted to stand.
Copy to: Dr. Susan Tave Zelman; Superintendent of Public Education
Members of the Science Content Standards Advisory Committee signing the 7 February 2006 Letter to Governor Bob Taft
Note: Institutional affiliation as listed by the Ohio Department of Education during service on the Science Standards Advisory Committee. Affiliations provided for identification purposes only and are not meant to imply institutional support; signatories are expressing their individual opinions. Chris Allen Educator Worthington City Schools
Chris Andersen College of Education Ohio State University – Newark
Bill Badders Educator Cleveland Municipal Schools
Richard Benz Educator Ohio SchoolNet
James Bishop Ohio Resource Center The Ohio State University
Patricia Bosh Educator Columbus City Schools
Francis Broadway College of Education University of Akron
Diane Cantrell (now retired) Deputy Chief Division of Soil and Water Conservation Ohio Department of Natural Resources
Phil Case Washington-Morgan-Meigs Tech Prep Consortium
Scott Charlton Educator Lebanon City Schools
Carol Damian Board Member Ohio Mathematics and Science Coalition
Lynn E. Elfner CEO The Ohio Academy of Science
Ron Fabic Educator Brunswick City Schools
Jenny Gee Educator South-Western City Schools
Joan Hall Educator National Middle Level Science Teachers Association
Spencer Reams Educator Benjamin Logan Local Schools
Steve Rissing Dept. of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology The Ohio State University
William Slattery Department of Geological Sciences Wright State University
Len Simutis President, ENC Learning, Inc.
Mano Singham Department of Physics Case Western Reserve University
Kathleen Sparrow K-12 Science Learning Specialist Akron City Schools
Tom Stork Educator Athens City Schools
Piyush Swami College of Education University of Cincinnati
Daphne Vasconcelos Research Scientist Battelle