The GADOE has released the approved standards for science. Although the biology standards are considerably better then the first draft, they have not been approved upon since the last draft. There are a few errors in the high-school standards and several important omissions. Here are the suggestions I made to the curriculim leader a few months ago, but they were apparantly declined.
- Add content to SB2: “Describe the interaction of genes and the environment to produce traits.” Students need to know that phenotypes are caused by gene-by-environment interactions. Skin color in humans is probably the easiest example.
- Retitle section SB5 to “Students will evaluate the development of evolutionary theory.” Students need to know that there are evolutionary forces other than selection, thus the section needs to be retitled due to the changes to the content.
- Change content SB5.a to “Trace the history of the theory from Lamarck, to Darwin and Wallace, and to the modern synthesis.” A little more context is needed to ensure that the right span of history is covered.
- Change content SB5.c to “Explain how morphological, fossil, and biochemical evidence supports the theory.” Comparative morphological evidence from extant species is also important evidence for evolution.
- Change content SB5.d to “Relate mutation, natural selection, drift, gene flow, and inbreeding to changes in populations.” There are more evolutionary forces than natural selection. Also populations evolve, not individuals, so “organisms” needs to be replaced by “populations.”
- Add content to SB5: “Explain how geographic isolation can lead to speciation.” Students need to know at least the basics of speciation.
- Change content SCSh3.a to “Suggest reasonable and testable (e.g. falsifiable) hypotheses for identified problems.” Students need to know that hypotheses need to be testable. The major criterion for testability is falsifiability, i.e. if the hypothesis is actually false, then it can be demonstrated as such though potential experiments or observations.
- Add content to SCSh7: “Mathematics and statistics are used to model natural phenomenon and thus have a vital role in the scientific process.” Students need to know that mathematics and its kin are invaluable to science. I know of way too many science majors and even graduate students that fail to appreciate this. One reason that scientists from India and China can successfully compete with American scientists is that they often understand this more than we do.
- Change content SCSh8.d to “The merit of a new theory is judged by how well scientific data are explained by the new theory, its predictive value of readily observable phenomena, and its ability to generate new areas of research.” The utility of theories is not just for explaining current data but also accounting for new data, and stimulating new areas of inquiry.
Sadly failure to address these suggestions means that we will not have a world class curriculim.