KCFS Issues Open Letter to Kansas Superintendents

Yesterday (June 5, 2006) Kansas Citizens for Science sent an open letter to the superintendents of Kansas public schools explaining why the current 2005 KBOE standards are seriously flawed, and suggesting that districts adopt the Recommended Standards developed by the science standards writing committee instead. We have asked that each superintendent distribute the letter to the district’s Board members also. I have included the whole letter below: see Recommended Standards on the KCFS News site for related information.

Read more of the story here.

Our understanding is that most districts have no intention to implement the KBOE standards. On the other hand, I imagine most districts will wait until the elections this August, at the least, before thinking about whether they want to do anything official about adopting the alternative Recommended Standards from the Board-disavowed science standards writing committee.

Four of the six creationist Board members (out of ten total Board members) are up for re-election. (Actually, one, Iris Van Meter is not running, being replaced as a candidate by her son-in-law). Each of those candidates has high-quality, pro-science Republican opponents in the primary and an equally-qualified Democrat waiting for the general election in November. Most of those opponents have openly stated that they would replace the KBOE standards if elected.

Therefore, the pro-science community in Kansas is primarily working politically this summer (as well as the pro-education, pro-sex-ed, and pro-qualified leaders at the Department of Education community: the current Board has alienated a lot of different groups.) Only if the creationists retain their control of the Board will other next steps be necessary – official rejection of the standards by school districts and possible legal action being two of the possibilities.

A story in the Hutchinsin News (published in other western Kansas newspapers also) can be found here.

For the record, here’s the letter we sent:

An Open Letter to Kansas Public School District Superintendents

from Kansas Citizens for Science (KCFS) June 5, 2006 (downloadable copy here).)

The 2005 KBOE science standards are seriously flawed, but there is an alternative!

In November 2005, the Kansas State Board of Education (KBOE) adopted, by a 6-4 majority, a set of science standards that Kansas Citizens for Science (KCFS) regards as seriously flawed. The KBOE

  • changed the definition of science in order to include supernatural causes as acceptable scientific explanations,
  • inserted numerous statements into the biology standards that have been rejected by mainstream science and are only found in Intelligent Design creationist literature, and
  • cast unwarranted doubt upon the methodology and validity of science.

The majority Board members, their appointees on the Science Standards Writing Committee, and the official spokesperson for those appointees have all made clear their motivations for these changes. Not only do they reject strongly supported scientific conclusions, such as common descent among species or the ancient age of the earth, they also firmly reject the religious beliefs of those Christians who accept the mainstream theory of evolution, calling them “confused” and “illogical” for believing that Christianity and evolution are compatible.

The KBOE standards have been rejected by numerous professional organizations of scientists and science teachers. The majority of the Science Standards Writing Committee voted to have their names removed from the KBOE standards, and national science organizations withdrew copyright permissions they had granted for language taken from their documents. Subsequently, the Manhattan-Ogden Board of Education, USD 383, voted to formally reject the state science standards.

The KBOE standards are so flawed that they may be unconstitutional, and if endorsed by a local school district could lead to serious legal difficulties. One way to avoid such difficulties is to continue using your current standards, based on the 2001 science standards, rather than incorporating the 2005 KBOE standards. Better yet, as explained below, you could adopt the Science Standards Writing Committee’s Recommended Standards, the completed product of the writing committee originally empowered by the Board to revise the 2001 standards.

The alternative: the Science Standards Writing Committee’s Recommended Standards

A large majority (21 out of 25) of the Science Standards Writing Committee continued to meet privately after their version of the standards was rejected by the KBOE. The committee improved on the draft they had submitted to the Board in March by responding to suggestions made by external reviewer MCREL (the Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning) and by the Fordham Foundation. The committee’s final version of the Recommended Standards is now available for districts to use as an alternative to the KBOE standards.

KCFS believes that Kansas’ school children would be far better served by these standards. We urge your district to consider adopting the Recommended Standards. See the KCFS News page on the Recommended Standards for a complete copy of the Recommended standards and other information about adopting the Recommended Standards in your district.

Here are a few of the reasons why KCFS encourages local school districts to officially adopt these Recommended Standards rather than the KBOE standards:

  • Kansas students should be taught science that corresponds to the consensus view of the community of scientists. They should not be taught assertions from the creationist anti-evolutionists that are held by the scientific community to be incorrect.
  • Kansas schools should not be used to promote one particular view of religion. Presenting religious arguments in the guise of science does harm not only to our students, but also to religious communities.
  • Kansas science teachers are already under pressure to teach bad science or to omit “controversial” science. School districts need to send their teachers a clear message that they support the teaching of mainstream science.
  • Districts using the state standards may leave themselves open to costly lawsuits, such as the one in Dover, Pennsylvania. The lawsuit over their Intelligent Design-inspired policy cost the Dover district over a million dollars. Should such a lawsuit occur in Kansas, it is not the state that will be sued – it is the local district that will be sued.

It is not possible to include all of the relevant information in this brief letter, but we encourage you to contact us or visit our website if you have any questions or concerns regarding this issue. We would be happy to have someone from our organization contact you or make a brief presentation to your school board should you so desire.

We would also appreciate it if you would distribute a copy of this letter to your Board members for your next Board meeting.

Sincerely, Jack Krebs, President On behalf of Kansas Citizens for Science

Contact information: jkrebs@sunflower.com 785-840-5113 (cell) 785-863-2281 (work) 785-832-0739 (home)