Live-Blogging the SBOE Science Debate I

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4:30 – With the end of the public hearing on proposed new science instructional materials, the State Board of Education is now starting debate over whether to adopt the materials recommended by the Texas education commissioner. In past adoptions, the state board has taken a preliminary vote at the end of this initial debate. The final, formal vote on which materials to put on the official adoption list is scheduled for Friday.

We’re also live-tweeting at #sboe. For anyone who wants to watch the proceedings, the meeting is being live-streamed here. For a primer on what’s at stake today and tomorrow, you can view an archive of TFN Insider posts on the science debate by clicking here.

4:37 – The board will consider the proposed instructional materials by grade level, beginning with Grade 5. Under consideration are science materials for Grades 5-8 and materials for Biology, Physics, Chemistry, and Integrated Physics and Chemistry at the high school level.

4:41 – The board is considering a motion that would require publishers to make corrections to errors identified by the Texas Education Agency’s instructional review teams in June. This motion would apply to all materials, for Grades 5-8 and high school. This is not particularly alarming. If the review teams identified real errors, they should be corrected.

4:47 – The board is now voting on approval of the commissioner’s recommendations by grade level, subject to publishers making required changes to errors.

4:48 – Chairwoman Barbara Cargill moves Biology to the end of the list. That’s when we’ll find out if board members have concerns about proposed materials from certain publishers.

5:03 – So far the board has given preliminary approval to the commissioner’s list for Grades 5-8 (subject to publishers correcting any errors review teams identified). (Final approval is required tomorrow.)

5:08 – We should note that the “errors” that publishers must correct include grammar, spelling and punctuation mistakes. It’s not unusual for publishers to correct numerous such errors after initial submission for adoption. Alarm bells will go off if some state board members start identifying “errors” that are really personal or political objections to content.

5:21 – Board members are raising concerns that they might be adopting instructional materials without knowing how publishers will make corrections to identified errors. Of course, TFN has noted in the past that this adoption process is greatly abbreviated (compared to past adoptions of instructional materials), leaving little time for board members — not to mention concerns folks outside the board — to review the materials and publishers’ corrections to errors. Board members are only recognizing this flaw in their process now?

5:33 – Board member Gail Lowe is proposing a mechanism for publishers to report their error corrections to the Texas Education Agency and the State Board of Education.

5:37 – Lowe’s suggestion approved. Chemistry products cleared for now. On to Physics materials.

5:38 – Materials for Physics and then Integrated Physics and Chemistry (IPC) get preliminary approval. On to Biology.

5:50 – And now we run into precisely the kind of problem we thought might occur because of the lack of transparency in this adoption process. Apparently, one of the publishers — Holt McDougal — has refused to change what a review panel identified as “errors.” Indeed, the publisher is insisting that its materials are based on sound science. This is the first time TFN and state board members themselves have even seen this list of “errors.” It’s unclear whether the “errors” are based on the objections of one or more review panel members. But this is key: the review panel included David Shormann, a youth-earth creationist. The board is now deciding what to do.

5:56 – We’re still studying the objections to the Holt McDougal materials, but they appear to be designed to question certain processes linked to evolution.

6:00 – Board members are debating whether to allow a representative of the publisher to explain the reason for refusing to make the changes. Thomas Ratliff raises concerns that the review panel’s objections might be the product of just one panel member and that board members have no way to know at this point.

6:02 – One of the objections to the Holt material deals with a student lab activity on comparing hominid skulls. Excerpt: “The similarities in human skulls with other hominids may be convergent evolution, but it is erroneous to pretend that common ancestry is the cause.”

6:05 – The board refuses to allow Holt McDougal to address the board on the issue. We’re working to get a copy of the objections in PDF form that we can upload.

6:10 – The board has voted to give preliminary approval to the Holt McDougal materials subject to the publisher making the changes noted in the disputed objections. This just pushes the debate into tomorrow.

6:21 – Other publisher’s materials for Biology are also gaining preliminary approval. But the Holt materials are going to be an issue tomorrow.

6:33 – Motion made by Craig to reject International Databases submission. It passes unanimously.

6:34 – Board adjourns. Tomorrow will be a nail-biter. Stay tuned.

6 Responses to “Live-Blogging the SBOE Science Debate I”

  1. Piedmont Says:

    Moving biology to the end is indicative that the wingnuts are not going to dissappoint us and will attempt to include creationist / ID literature.

    There is no reason to move it, unless you know you are going to create a scene that a lot of people won’t like.

    I am sure this will be used by the Dems to whack Perry over the head with when he announces his run for President.

  2. Joe Lapp Says:

    This is the third constituent of the anti-evolution faction that Perry has appointed to chair the board, despite the previous constituents losing the post for the disasters they have wrought. Perry deserves full credit for what goes on at this board.

  3. Lorenzo Sadun Says:

    Aside from the yet-to-be-resolved evolution questions, how (dis)functional is the board? Are they making sensible suggestions for dealing with the uncontroversial nuts-and-bolts issues, or are they trying to lay down markers for the upcoming evolution fight?

  4. The Curmudgeon Says:

    The Discovery Institute made a report on the publisher’s material. It’s available here. On page 40 they have a table of “errors” in the Holt McDougal material. They say “This purely positive portrayal of natural selection provides no evaluation or critique of Darwinian evolution by natural selection, nor is there presentation of all sides of the data.” It goes on like that for several pages.

  5. Joe Lapp Says:

    How is it that only Holt was attacked for its coverage of evolution? Is coverage of evolution abysmal in the other texts? If we no longer have an anti-evolution majority on the board, why isn’t the board taking Holt’s response seriously?

  6. Jed Says:

    what are the the credentials of a “young earth historian” to be on that committee in the first place?

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