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The State Board of Education Could Change How Texas Schools Teach Evolution

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez/KUT News
Science textbooks and supplies in a first grade classroom.

The State Board of Education starts to review a months-long process this week to simplify its science curriculum standards, including recommendationsto remove some controversial requirements to teach alternate theories to evolution, including creationism.

The State Board of Education made national headlines in 2009 when it approved science curriculum standards that require students to evaluate “various aspects of evolution,” a move many critics said would've allowed religion-based, creationist teachings into the public school classroom.

“Over the years, teachers around the state said they're frustrated about the standards," says Dan Quinn with the Texas Freedom Network. "They found them confusing, misleading and overly complicated and time consuming.”

While teachers are required to teach these standards, textbook publishers didn’t necessarily include them all exactly as the standards read. So, teachers had to find other ways to cover them.

“The board has heard, for this subject and other subjects, a lot of educators feel like there are too many curriculum standards. So they feel really pressured to teach them all over the course of the school year. So they feel they can’t go very deep into some subjects," says Debbie Ratcliffe with the Texas Education Agency.

In response to those concerns, the State Board of Education appointed a committee of teachers and schools to review the standards and make suggestions. Recommendations posted on the Texas Education Agency’s website show nearly all committee members support removing skepticism to evolutionary thinking, but the state board will make the final decision.

The board will hold a public hearing Tuesday, then debate the suggestions Wednesday before taking an initial vote. The final vote on these streamlined standards will be in April. Then, they’ll start the same review with the state’s social studies standards.

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