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Kentucky Education Officials OK New Science Standards Despite Criticism of Evolution

MC1 Charlemagne Obana

Kentucky education officials' consideration of Next Generation Science Standards gained national attention last month when The Huffington Post and otherspicked up on criticism of evolution and climate change during a public hearings on the matter. Here's the latest:The Kentucky Board of Education on Thursday rejected that public opposition and approved a final report from the education department on the new science standards.

Some people were concerned about teaching students evolution. But state officials says evolution is already included in the current set of standards. Further, in the statement of consideration approved Thursday, officials say there’s enough scientific research supporting evolution.Officials also rejected claims that creationism should be included and that climate change should be removed.Again, they cite the research. (Click here to read the SOC report).The state received thousands of responses during the public comment period. A petition with 3,700 names was signed in support of the standards, and Kentucky education officials include several scientific organizations that have shown their support. At the same time, the state received over one-hundred identical emails that opposed inclusion of evolution and characterized it as a theory and not a fact.A Statement of Consideration is what the board approved on Thursday. It's the formal document that includes recommendations for any changes to the standards based off public comments.The regulation now heads to Kentucky’s Administrative Regulation Review Committee. If approved in the Kentucky General Assembly, the new standards would go into effect during the 2014-2015 school year.Updating science standards is part of Kentucky's education reforms.The Next Generation Science Standards were developed by 26 states, including Kentucky. State officials say the standards are based on new scientific research and include what students are expected to learn, while providing the blueprint for success in post-secondary education.The standards have critics outside of Kentucky, and received a “C” grade overall from the Fordham Institute—a conservative education think tank organization—for its lack of rigor, but many educators reject this claim. Fordham also says the new standards are inferior to Kentucky’s current standards. (Click here to see its final report)Below, the statement of consideration responds to public comments.EvolutionCiting support from dozens of scientific organizations, Kentucky education department officials rejected comments opposing evolution in the new standards, saying it’s “the fundamental, unifying theory that underlies all the life sciences.” It goes on to say, “there is no significant ongoing debate within the scientific community regarding the legitimacy of evolution as a scientific idea.”KDE also notes that the concept of evolution already exists in the current version of the Kentucky Core Academic Standards for Science and has been assessed since 2006.Creationism and Intelligent DesignKDE rejected comments related to including intelligent design in the new standards because they lack scientific support. “The overwhelming majority of scientists do not consider creationism intelligent design,” the report says.Officials also point to court decisions that have repeatedly declared teaching creationism and intelligent design as unconstitutional. The new standards no not attempt to explain the origin of life, while creationism and intelligent design do, the report reads.Climate ChangeKDE officials say the standards do not advocate any particular public response, policy change, or civic action related to climate change, but it does ask that schools include climate research and studies within the standards framework.The standards, “ask students to consider the evidence for the factors influencing climate change.”Further it says that local districts may choose to tailor their curricula to fit their needs.