The Real Truth about Georgia's Biology Curriculum

This originally appeared here on my pre-blog site.

Introduction

This document shows an analysis of the life science benchmarks in the recently proposed Georgia science standards, by comparing them to the the Project 2061 benchmarks developed by AAAS. Georgia’s proposed standards are based on the AAAS benchmarks by way of the Council for Basic Education’s Standards for Excellence in Education. The information to compile this document can be found at the following links. Do not take my word on it; do your own analysis.

  1. Project 2061: The Living Environment
  2. Georgia’s K-2 Proposed Science Standards
  3. Georgia’s 3-5 Proposed Science Standards
  4. Georgia’s 6-8 Proposed Science Standards
  5. Georgia’s 9-12 Proposed Biology Standards
  1. Georgia Performance Standards - Draft
  2. Project 2061: Benchmarks Online Table of Contents
  3. Council for Basic Education: Standards for Excellence in Education

Update

On Febuary 20th the GADOE released new draft standards for science education (High-school biology and Middle School Science). These standards reimplement most of the material that Kathy Cox removed from the biology standards. We should all thank the State Board of Education and the educators on the science writting committee for doing the right thing. State officials are considering adding in omitted material for other fields, but have not yet decided on how to do it. For example, there are questions of where to cover the Big Bang, since high school physics classes rarely cover astronomy and cosmology.

Additional Information

An alternative markup, comparing the new draft standards to the Standards for Excellence in Education, was prepared by NCSE and is available from this website. Note that these comparisons were made before the February 20th revisions were released.

  1. Comparison of the 2004 Draft Georgia Biology Curriculum document to Standards for Excellence in Education
  2. Georgia Draft Science Descriptions

Public comments on these proposals can be made directly to GADOE with this form. This is the preferred way of communicating with GADOE about these standards.

An online petition has been started where people from Georgia and abroad can urge GADOE to accept all of the AAAS benchmarks, or in the words of the petition:

We strongly encourage the state of Georgia to incorporate the entirety of the AAAS benchmarks. A complete science education is essential to scientific literacy and to our state’s economy.

SIGN IT TODAY.

Statement by the Georgia Department of Education

“All of the theories and the education is in there. The only thing that’s missing is the one word.” —Kirk Englehardt, GADOE spokesman

GADOE is engaged in an active misinformation campaign about these life science standards. In this campaign representatives of the department, when discussing these standards, leave the impression that replacement of the term “evolution” is the only change that was made to the standards. One such example appears above, and another example, a form letter sent out in response to email, appears below. (The link to the form letter is dead because GADOE has quietly expunged it from their records. Apparantly, this is the response to being caught in an obvious lie.) Furthermore, I have reports from science educators who have spoken directly to Steve Pruitt, the man in charge of the science curriculum process, about these standards. According to them, in his talks Pruitt definitely claims that the only change is the replacement of the term “evolution.” The evidence presented on this page tells another story. One educator, in fact, upon seeing the comparison between the AAAS and GADOE benchmarks, felt both betrayed and angry at the misinformation. Both Cox and Pruitt have declined to explain these stealth omissions, both to the media and to GCISE.

The Truth [sic] About Georgia’s Biology Curriculum

The Georgia Department of Education has received many inquiries concerning some of the terminology used in our biology curriculum under the proposed Georgia Performance Standards.

We want to invite the public to read the actual document, which is in draft form and available for public comment and review, on our website at www.gadoe.org.
During this time of public input, we are using the feedback of
our teachers, students, parents, and members of the public to help us make final revisions to the proposed curriculum, which will be up for approval by the State Board of Education in May. If the public wishes that changes be made, we will do so.

Those who read the draft of the science curriculum will find that the concepts of Darwinism, adaptation, natural selection, mutation, and speciation are actually interwoven throughout the standards. Students will learn of the succession through history of scientific models of change, such as those of Lamarck, Malthus, Wallace, Buffon, and Darwin.

They will become scientifically literate by learning the process of scientific inquiry and seeing the way science changes as a result of new discoveries and theories.

They will become familiar with the development of living organisms and their changes over time, including inherited characteristics that lead to survival of organisms and their successive generations.

And they will be prepared for college by having been exposed in detail to the models that the scientific community currently embraces.

Why, then, is the word itself not used in the draft of the curriculum, when the concepts are there? The unfortunate truth is that “evolution” has become a controversial buzzword that could prevent some from reading the proposed biology curriculum comprehensive document with multiple scientific models woven
throughout. We don’t want the public or our students to get stuck on a word when the curriculum actually includes the most widely accepted theories for biological change over time. Ironically, people have become upset about the exclusion of the word again, without having read the document.

Examples of Evolutionary Concepts in the Proposed Biology Curriculum

You can read the complete draft of the curriculum and find more examples at
www.gadoe.org.

Now compare the above statements from the GADOE with the evidence presented below. Are Kathy Cox and her department being forthcoming and honest about their changes in the proposed biology curriculum? Are the concepts of modern biology still being taught or only partially taught? Is there really only one difference, or is GADOE bearing false witness to the people?

Instructions

The AAAS benchmarks are listed with the sections not present in the GADOE benchmarks appearing in bold with stike-through. Sections that were once omitted but have been added back in appear in bold with an underline. The location of the benchmark in the GADOE standards appears in parentheses. On a special note, the GADOE had replaced all references to “evolution” in the benchmarks with “biological change over time.”

These benchmarks are copyrighted © 1993 by American Association for the Advancement of Science.

K-2: By the end of the 2nd grade, students should know that

  1. Diversity of Life
    1. Some animals and plants are alike in the way they look and in the things they do, and others are very different from one another. (SKL1)
    2. Plants and animals have features that help them live in different environments. (S2L1)
    3. Stories sometimes give plants and animals attributes they really do not have.
  2. Heredity
    1. There is variation among individuals of one kind within a population. (SKL2)
    2. Offspring are very much, but not exactly, like their parents and like one another. (SKL2)
  3. Cells
    1. Magnifiers help people see things they could not see without them.
    2. Most living things need water, food, and air. (S1L1)
  4. Interdependence of Life
    1. Animals eat plants or other animals for food and may also use plants (or even other animals) for shelter and nesting. (S2L2)
    2. Living things are found almost everywhere in the world. There are somewhat different kinds in different places. (S2L3)
  5. Flow of Matter and Energy
    1. Plants and animals both need to take in water, and animals need to take in food. In addition, plants need light. (S1L1)
    2. Many materials can be recycled and used again, sometimes in different forms.
  6. Evolution of Life
    1. Different plants and animals have external features that help them thrive in different kinds of places. (S2L1)
    2. Some kinds of organisms that once lived on earth have completely disappeared, although they were something like others that are alive today.

3-5: By the end of the 5th grade, students should know that

  1. Diversity of Life
    1. A great variety of kinds of living things can be sorted into groups in many ways using various features to decide which things belong to which group. (S5L1)
    2. Features used for grouping depend on the purpose of the grouping. (S5L1)
  2. Heredity
    1. Some likenesses between children and parents, such as eye color in human beings, or fruit or flower color in plants, are inherited. Other likenesses, such as people’s table manners or carpentry skills, are learned. (S5L2)
    2. For offspring to resemble their parents, there must be a reliable way to transfer information from one generation to the next. (S5L2)
  3. Cells
    1. Some living things consist of a single cell. Like familiar organisms, they need food, water, and air; a way to dispose of waste; and an environment they can live in. (S5L3, S5L4)
    2. Microscopes make it possible to see that living things are made mostly of cells. Some organisms are made of a collection of similar cells that benefit from cooperating. Some organisms’ cells vary greatly in appearance and perform very different roles in the organism. (S5L3)
  4. Interdependence of Life
    1. For any particular environment, some kinds of plants and animals survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot survive at all. (S3L1)
    2. Insects and various other organisms depend on dead plant and animal material for food. (S4L1)
    3. Organisms interact with one another in various ways besides providing food. Many plants depend on animals for carrying their pollen to other plants or for dispersing their seeds. (S4L1)
    4. Changes in an organism’s habitat are sometimes beneficial to it and sometimes harmful. (S2L1)
    5. Most microorganisms do not cause disease, and many are beneficial. (S5L5)
  5. Flow of Matter and Energy
    1. Almost all kinds of animals’ food can be traced back to plants. (S4L3)
    2. Some source of “energy” is needed for all organisms to stay alive and grow. (S4L3)
    3. Over the whole earth, organisms are growing, dying, and decaying, and new organisms are being produced by the old ones. (S4L3)
  6. Evolution of Life
    1. Individuals of the same kind differ in their characteristics, and sometimes the differences give individuals an advantage in surviving and reproducing. (S3L3, S4L2)
    2. Fossils can be compared to one another and to living organisms according to their similarities and differences. Some organisms that lived long ago are similar to existing organisms, but some are quite different.

6-8: By the end of the 8th grade, students should know that

  1. Diversity of Life
    1. One of the most general distinctions among organisms is between plants, which use sunlight to make their own food, and animals, which consume energy-rich foods. Some kinds of organisms, many of them microscopic, cannot be neatly classified as either plants or animals. (S7L1)
    2. Animals and plants have a great variety of body plans and internal structures that contribute to their being able to make or find food and reproduce. (S7L1)
    3. Similarities among organisms are found in internal anatomical features, which can be used to infer the degree of relatedness among organisms. In classifying organisms, biologists consider details of internal and external structures to be more important than behavior or general appearance. (S7L1)
    4. For sexually reproducing organisms, a species comprises all organisms that can mate with one another to produce fertile offspring. (S7L1)
    5. All organisms, including the human species, are part of and depend on two main interconnected global food webs. One includes microscopic ocean plants, the animals that feed on them, and finally the animals that feed on those animals. The other web includes land plants, the animals that feed on them, and so forth. The cycles continue indefinitely because organisms decompose after death to return food material to the environment. (S7L5)
  2. Heredity
    1. In some kinds of organisms, all the genes come from a single parent, whereas in organisms that have sexes, typically half of the genes come from each parent. (S7L2)
    2. In sexual reproduction, a single specialized cell from a female merges with a specialized cell from a male. As the fertilized egg, carrying genetic information from each parent, multiplies to form the complete organism with about a trillion cells, the same genetic information is copied in each cell.
    3. New varieties of cultivated plants and domestic animals have resulted from selective breeding for particular traits. (S7L2)
  3. Cells
    1. All living things are composed of cells, from just one to many millions, whose details usually are visible only through a microscope. Different body tissues and organs are made up of different kinds of cells. The cells in similar tissues and organs in other animals are similar to those in human beings but differ somewhat from cells found in plants. (S7L3)
    2. Cells repeatedly divide to make more cells for growth and repair. Various organs and tissues function to serve the needs of cells for food, air, and waste removal. (S7L3)
    3. Within cells, many of the basic functions of organisms-such as extracting energy from food and getting rid of waste-are carried out. The way in which cells function is similar in all living organisms. (S7L3)
    4. About two thirds of the weight of cells is accounted for by water, which gives cells many of their properties. (S7L3)
  4. Interdependence of Life
    1. In all environments-freshwater, marine, forest, desert, grassland, mountain, and others-organisms with similar needs may compete with one another for resources, including food, space, water, air, and shelter. In any particular environment, the growth and survival of organisms depend on the physical conditions. (S7L4)
    2. Two types of organisms may interact with one another in several ways: They may be in a producer/consumer, predator/prey, or parasite/host relationship. Or one organism may scavenge or decompose another. Relationships may be competitive or mutually beneficial. Some species have become so adapted to each other that neither could survive without the other. (S7L4)
  5. Flow of Matter and Energy
    1. Food provides molecules that serve as fuel and building material for all organisms. Plants use the energy in light to make sugars out of carbon dioxide and water. This food can be used immediately for fuel or materials or it may be stored for later use. Organisms that eat plants break down the plant structures to produce the materials and energy they need to survive. Then they are consumed by other organisms. (S7L5)
    2. Over a long time, matter is transferred from one organism to another repeatedly and between organisms and their physical environment. As in all material systems, the total amount of matter remains constant, even though its form and location change. (S7L5)
    3. Energy can change from one form to another in living things. Animals get energy from oxidizing their food, releasing some of its energy as heat. Almost all food energy comes originally from sunlight. (S7L5)
  6. Evolution of Life
    1. Small differences between parents and offspring can accumulate (through selective breeding) in successive generations so that descendants are very different from their ancestors. (S7L6)
    2. Individual organisms with certain traits are more likely than others to survive and have offspring. Changes in environmental conditions can affect the survival of individual organisms and entire species. (S7L6)
    3. Many thousands of layers of sedimentary rock provide evidence for the long history of the earth and for the long history of changing life forms whose remains are found in the rocks. More recently deposited rock layers are more likely to contain fossils resembling existing species. (S7L6)

9-12: By the end of the 12th grade, students should know that

  1. Diversity of Life
    1. The variation of organisms within a species increases the likelihood that at least some members of the species will survive under changed environmental conditions, and a great diversity of species increases the chance that at least some living things will survive in the face of large changes in the environment. (SB5)
    2. The degree of kinship between organisms or species can be estimated from the similarity of their DNA sequences, which often closely matches their classification based on anatomical similarities. (SB4)
  2. Heredity
    1. Some new gene combinations make little difference, some can produce organisms with new and perhaps enhanced capabilities, and some can be deleterious. (SB2)
    2. The sorting and recombination of genes in sexual reproduction results in a great variety of possible gene combinations from the offspring of any two parents. (SB2)
    3. The information passed from parents to offspring is coded in DNA molecules. (SB2)
    4. Genes are segments of DNA molecules. Inserting, deleting, or substituting DNA segments can alter genes. An altered gene may be passed on to every cell that develops from it. The resulting features may help, harm, or have little or no effect on the offspring’s success in its environment. (SB2)
    5. Gene mutations can be caused by such things as radiation and chemicals. When they occur in sex cells, the mutations can be passed on to offspring; if they occur in other cells, they can be passed on to descendant cells only. The experiences an organism has during its lifetime can affect its offspring only if the genes in its own sex cells are changed by the experience. (SB2)
    6. The many body cells in an individual can be very different from one another, even though they are all descended from a single cell and thus have essentially identical genetic instructions. Different parts of the instructions are used in different types of cells, influenced by the cell’s environment and past history. (SB2)
  3. Cells
    1. Every cell is covered by a membrane that controls what can enter and leave the cell. In all but quite primitive cells, a complex network of proteins provides organization and shape and, for animal cells, movement. (SB1)
    2. Within every cell are specialized parts for the transport of materials, energy transfer, protein building, waste disposal, information feedback, and even movement. In addition, most cells in multicellular organisms perform some special functions that others do not. (SB1)
    3. The work of the cell is carried out by the many different types of molecules it assembles, mostly proteins. Protein molecules are long, usually folded chains made from 20 different kinds of amino-acid molecules. The function of each protein molecule depends on its specific sequence of amino acids and the shape the chain takes is a consequence of attractions between the chain’s parts. (SB1)
    4. The genetic information encoded in DNA molecules provides instructions for assembling protein molecules. The code used is virtually the same for all life forms. (SB1) Before a cell divides, the instructions are duplicated so that each of the two new cells gets all the necessary information for carrying on. (SB2)
    5. Complex interactions among the different kinds of molecules in the cell cause distinct cycles of activities, such as growth and division. Cell behavior can also be affected by molecules from other parts of the organism or even other organisms. (SB1)
    6. Gene mutation in a cell can result in uncontrolled cell division, called cancer. Exposure of cells to certain chemicals and radiation increases mutations and thus increases the chance of cancer. (SB1)
    7. Most cells function best within a narrow range of temperature and acidity. At very low temperatures, reaction rates are too slow. High temperatures and/or extremes of acidity can irreversibly change the structure of most protein molecules. Even small changes in acidity can alter the molecules and how they interact. Both single cells and multicellular organisms have molecules that help to keep the cell’s acidity within a narrow range. (SB1)
    8. A living cell is composed of a small number of chemical elements mainly carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorous, and sulfur. Carbon atoms can easily bond to several other carbon atoms in chains and rings to form large and complex molecules. (SB1)
  4. Interdependence of Life
    1. Ecosystems can be reasonably stable over hundreds or thousands of years. As any population of organisms grows, it is held in check by one or more environmental factors: depletion of food or nesting sites, increased loss to increased numbers of predators, or parasites. If a disaster such as flood or fire occurs, the damaged ecosystem is likely to recover in stages that eventually result in a system similar to the original one. (SB5)
    2. Like many complex systems, ecosystems tend to have cyclic fluctuations around a state of rough equilibrium. In the long run, however, ecosystems always change when climate changes or when one or more new species appear as a result of migration or local evolution. (SB2)
    3. Human beings are part of the earth’s ecosystems. Human activities can, deliberately or inadvertently, alter the equilibrium in ecosystems. (SB5)
  5. Flow of Matter and Energy
    1. At times, environmental conditions are such that plants and marine organisms grow faster than decomposers can recycle them back to the environment. Layers of energy-rich organic material have been gradually turned into great coal beds and oil pools by the pressure of the overlying earth. By burning these fossil fuels, people are passing most of the stored energy back into the environment as heat and releasing large amounts of carbon dioxide. (SB6)
    2. The amount of life any environment can support is limited by the available energy, water, oxygen, and minerals, and by the ability of ecosystems to recycle the residue of dead organic materials. Human activities and technology can change the flow and reduce the fertility of the land. (SB6)
    3. The chemical elements that make up the molecules of living things pass through food webs and are combined and recombined in different ways. At each link in a food web, some energy is stored in newly made structures but much is dissipated into the environment as heat. Continual input of energy from sunlight keeps the process going. (SB6)
  6. Evolution of Life
    1. The basic idea of biological evolution is that the earth’s present-day species developed from earlier, distinctly different species. (SB7)
    2. Molecular evidence substantiates the anatomical evidence for evolution and provides additional detail about the sequence in which various lines of descent branched off from one another. (SB7)
    3. Natural selection provides the following mechanism for evolution: Some variation in heritable characteristics exists within every species, some of these characteristics give individuals an advantage over others in surviving and reproducing, and the advantaged offspring, in turn, are more likely than others to survive and reproduce. The proportion of individuals that have advantageous characteristics will increase. (SB7)
    4. Heritable characteristics can be observed at molecular and whole-organism levels-in structure, chemistry, or behavior. These characteristics strongly influence what capabilities an organism will have and how it will react, and therefore influence how likely it is to survive and reproduce. (SB7)
    5. New heritable characteristics can result from new combinations of existing genes or from mutations of genes in reproductive cells. Changes in other cells of an organism cannot be passed on to the next generation. (SB2)
    6. Natural selection leads to organisms that are well suited for survival in particular environments. Chance alone can result in the persistence of some heritable characteristics having no survival or reproductive advantage or disadvantage for the organism. When an environment changes, the survival value of some inherited characteristics may change. (SB7)
    7. The theory of natural selection provides a scientific explanation for the history of life on earth as depicted in the fossil record and in the similarities evident within the diversity of existing organisms. (SB7)
    8. Life on earth is thought to have begun as simple, one-celled organisms about 4 billion years ago. During the first 2 billion years, only single-cell microorganisms existed, but once cells with nuclei developed about a billion years ago, increasingly complex multicellular organisms evolved. (SB7)
    9. Evolution builds on what already exists, so the more variety there is, the more there can be in the future. But evolution does not necessitate long-term progress in some set direction. Evolutionary changes appear to be like the growth of a bush: Some branches survive from the beginning with little or no change, many die out altogether, and others branch repeatedly, sometimes giving rise to more complex organisms. (SB7)
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