Live-Blogging the Final Science Materials Vote

by TFN

We’re back in the hearing room for the final vote, which is beginning now.

9:24 – The board jumps right in to a discussion of the disputed Holt McDougal product. A TEA spokesperson clarifies that they could find NO documentation to substantiate that multiple review panel members signed-off on the alleged “error” list presented yesterday. It appears that a single member of this panel is responsible for these charges, and it does not reflect a consensus opinion of the panel.

9:27 – Important note: TFN has obtained a copy of letter addressed to the state board signed by five members of the official biology review panels. The letter challenges the alleged “errors” identified in the report presented to the board late yesterday, concluding:

“Holt McDougal’s supplement, as well as the publisher’s response to the reviewers, accurately describes the current state of the science, satisfies the TEKS, and matches the other supplements already approved by the board on Thursday.”

9:28 – Board member Michael Soto, D-San Antonio, moves to strike the disputed “error” list in the Holt McDougal product. Heated discussion ensues.

9:31 – Here is a summary of what is going on: the alleged “errors” identified in the Holt McDougal product appear to originate from a single member of the review panel, apparently David Shormann (a self-identified young earth creationist). TEA staff confirms that other members of that panel did NOT sign off on the alleged “errors.” That means the board yesterday voted to force Holt to make changes based on the objections of a single person. Dr. Soto’s motion would undo that vote and allow Holt McDougal to proceed with their proposed submission without making these disputed changes (which would insert junk science into the submission).

9:40 – Board members are reacting with alarm to this revelation. A number of board members make the point that to force these disputed changes might actually create errors in these materials. Precisely.

9:45 – David Bradley, R-Buna, has some nerve. He’s lecturing the board about how substantive changes shouldn’t be made on the final Friday of the meeting. Wow. We would remind Mr. Bradley that he personally participated in massive revisions to social studies standards (2010), science standards (2009) and English-Language Arts standards (2008).

9:50 – Soto speaks to his motion. He makes the reasonable point that the board should not be adjudicating technical matters biology, since they are not experts in this area. But when they find an undisputed mistake in the process like this, they must take corrective action. The board should not force changes on a publisher that do not represent a consensus opinion of the review committees.

9:56 – The board votes to take a 15 minute recess. Stay tuned.

10:19 – We’re back. David Bradley is reading a statement from Holt McDougal, saying they will respect the decisions of the board. No surprises there.

10:21 – Bob Craig, R-Lubbock, suggests that Dr. Soto withdraw his motion, and allow the board to approve the Holt McDougal submission contingent upon changes approved by the Education Commissioner. This would appear to be a compromise to allow the publisher to make reasonable, accurate changes — not the political changes suggested by Shormann. Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio, speaks against. He wants the publisher to make the changes Shormann advocates. The board is discussing.

10:25 – Soto calls for a vote on his motion to strike all the disputed “errors” identified by Shormann. Mercer moves to amend  Soto’s motion by exempting the materials pertinent to TEKS 7A (animation “Similarities in Microbiology” on pages 4-5 of the disputed “error” report) — this is one of Shormann’s bogus errors. Mercer wants this particular change to be forced on Holt McDougal.

10:30 – Chairwoman Cargill announces that they are separating these into two separate motions. Soto decides to withdraw his motion, so they can take up Craig’s compromise.

10:32 – Craig immediately moves to accept the Holt McDougal submission contingent upon rewording the disputed sections to the satisfaction of the Education Commissioner. Bradley speaks against.

10:33 – Gail Lowe, R-Lampasas, speaks in favor. Commissioner Scott clarifies that he will look at these disputed issues very carefully and ensure the changes are accurate and conform to the curriculum standards. We understand that the commissioner intends to seek out the advice from legitimate science scholars and teachers in vetting these changes. Terri Leo, R-Spring, doesn’t like this because it prevents the board from monkeying around with the product to insert bogus creationist arguments. Mercer has the same objection.

10:41 – Call for a record vote. Craig’s amendment passes unanimously. The far-right bloc complained, but they didn’t have the courage of their convictions.

10:44 — Craig moves on a procedural vote to reject the “intelligent design” submission by International Databases. His motion is approved unanimously. These two votes represent a definitive victory for science and the students of Texas — and a complete defeat of the far-right’s two-year campaign to dumb-down instruction on evolution in Texas schools. We’ll have a press statement shortly.