Today science education advocates have good reason to be encouraged by developments in Texas. But we’re not out of the woods just yet.

After two hours of heated debate and nerve-wracking twists and turns, a majority on the State Board of Education very late last night gave preliminary approval to all of the proposed textbooks for high school biology and environmental science courses. None of those textbooks undermine instruction on evolution or climate change, much to the frustration of the board’s creationist faction.

The board must take a final vote on the adoption of those textbooks today, but the majority last night turned back a last-minute effort to derail the adoption of two of those textbooks: the biology product from publisher Pearson Education and the environmental science product from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

The adoption of the Pearson textbook was held up because an anti-evolution activist appointed to serve as an official state reviewer alleged that it included nearly two dozen factual errors. Some of the alleged “errors” focused on relatively small and almost trivial details — such as whether scientists estimate the age of Earth as 4 billion or 4.2 billion years old. But most dealt with evolution or related concepts and… Read More

When the State Board of Education‘s public hearing on new science textbooks for Texas public schools finally began late Wednesday night, it became clear that creationists were unable to mount a real attack on the biology textbooks. So all looked to be going well — until it became equally clear that oil and gas industry interests had decided to attack the only environmental science textbook up for adoption by the state board.

The last person to testify, Becky Berger, who identified herself a geologist and oil and gas professional, insisted that high schools shouldn’t even teach environmental science classes. She proceeded to attack the environmental science textbook from publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH). Berger claimed that the textbook is filled with factual errors on topics like pollution potentially caused by hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and the problem of carbon emissions (which the vast majority of scientists say is the primary cause of climate change). But she provided no actual written documentation to back up her claims. None. In fact, she didn’t even provide a list of the alleged errors so that the publisher could respond to her claims.

The state’s official review teams had not identified any factual errors in the… Read More

On Tuesday morning, the Seattle-based Discovery Institute mourned the failure to undermine the teaching of evolution in new science textbooks for Texas public schools. But that declaration of defeat actually has come days before the State Board of Education‘s scheduled final vote Friday on whether to adopt those new textbooks.

We’re not ready to declare the fight over — during TFN’s 19-year history of monitoring the state board, we’ve seen board members pressure publishers into making last-minute changes to their textbooks numerous times. But it’s encouraging to see the Discovery Institute, the institutional home of the “intelligent design”/creationism movement, ready to throw in the towel. (It’s even more satisfying because the Discovery Institute hasn’t even bothered to show up for the debate this year. Are they declaring defeat based on our reporting or on what they’re hearing from creationists like board Chairwoman Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands?)

In a misleading blog post on Tuesday, the organization claims that the state board “looks set to approve science textbooks this week that fail to comply with state science standards requiring students to ‘analyze and evaluate’ core evolutionary claims.” The post quotes Stephen Meyer, director of the Discovery Institute’s Center for… Read More

7:45 p.m. – Ok, folks. We’re going to hang in here until they finish, but we don’t expect you to. We’ll skip the live-blog tonight and post a recap tomorrow morning. We’ll watch so you don’t have to. Be safe out there.

5:40 – If this is true, then the science hearing is likely to be pushed back even further into the night:

Hearing that Sen @DanPatrick & Rep @Aycockjda are headed to the SBOE to remind the board of legislative intent on HB5 #txlege

— Scott Braddock (@scottbraddock) November 20, 2013

5:30 p.m. – Still waiting for the science portion of the hearing to begin. It’s looking like we might be in for a long night.

2:05 p.m. – The state board is still considering a separate matter. So the hearing on the science textbooks is not likely to start until late this afternoon. Stay tuned.

We will be live-blogging from the State Board of Education‘s hearing today on proposed new science textbooks for Texas public schools. The hearing was set to start officially at 1 p.m., but other board business is pushing that start time until later.… Read More

This week the State Board of Education decides whether the next generation of Texas public school students have textbooks that teach 21st-century science or junk science that once again makes the Lone Star State a national laughingstock.

Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams has released the list of textbooks he recommends for adoption, and all of the proposed high school biology textbooks are on the list. The release of the commissioner’s list comes after a months-long process in which anti-evolution activists placed on official state review teams tried to pressure publishers into adding discredited arguments attacking evolution and climate change science to their textbooks. Publishers have so far refused to do so.

The board has scheduled a final public hearing on the textbooks for Wednesday afternoon in Austin. Publishers have made last-minute changes in past textbook adoptions because of pressure from board members. But TFN President Kathy Miller will be among the hearing testifiers calling on board members to stop pressuring publishers and adopt the new textbooks. We will be live-blogging here and Tweeting (@tfn_live) from the hearing.

On Thursday board members will debate the adoption of the textbooks and take a… Read More