During last week’s State Board of Education (SBOE) meetings, various board members suggested that the Texas Freedom Network had inappropriately or inaccurately reported what’s going on in the review of proposed new biology textbooks for Texas high schools. So let’s clear up a few things.

SBOE members suggested that TFN inappropriately released findings and objections by textbook reviewers.

Texans have a right to know what state-appointed reviewers are saying about textbooks proposed for their children. So TFN posted on our website the review panels’ August reports that were provided by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) after our request under the Texas Public Information Act. As the TEA legal counsel noted at Friday’s SBOE meeting, those reports are public documents. Publishers are currently negotiating with reviewers over objections to their textbooks that are listed in the panel review reports.

SBOE Chairwoman Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, protested that the reviewer reports TFN cited were only “preliminary.”

Casually dismissing these review reports as “preliminary” is greatly misleading. Publishers must decide what changes to make — if any — based on reviewers’ findings and objections recorded in these “preliminary” reports. Reviewers then evaluate those publisher responses, revise their reports accordingly, and… Read More

In something of a tour de farce, on Tuesday arch-creationist and former State Board of Education chairman Don McLeroy returned to the same state board meeting room in which he led efforts to rewrite science curriculum standards for Texas public schools in 2008-09. Those controversial standards, he hoped, would “strike a blow” against evolution in science education and, in particular, in new science textbooks that publishers would subsequently write. (Please excuse the periodic but short video blackouts in the clip above.)

Speaking at the SBOE’s public hearing on the proposed new science textbooks publishers submitted for approval in April, McLeroy — who lost a re-election bid in 2010 — launched into one of the most bizarre arguments we heard throughout the day. Before and after he spoke, creationists sharply criticized the textbooks for failing to include their discredited arguments attacking evolution. But not McLeroy. The College Station dentist insisted that the SBOE should actually adopt the textbooks because, he said repeatedly and emphatically, the evidence supporting evolution in those books is “weak”:

“Ironically, evolutionists argue that creationists want to force their religious views on the texts. But just the teaching of biology does that, and teaching evolution… Read More

5:29 - That's a wrap. We're calling this hearing a lopsided victory for science. Thanks, everyone. Watch the blog tomorrow for video of former SBOE chair Don McLeroy's strange and confusing return to the board as a member of the public, and other fall-out from today's hearing. For pictures from today's science rally (and virtual rally), check out TFN's Stand Up for Science tumblr: http://standup4science.tumblr.com/. 5:15 - And now a rebuttal to Mr. Bennett from the next testifier, Arthur Stewart, senior minister at Midway Hills Christian Church in Dallas, who states unambiguously that evolution should be in the textbooks, not any religious or theological beliefs. Amen. 5:10 - Gary Bennett, who identifies himself as Chairman of the Center for the Preservation of American Ideals, offers an unambiguous, explicit argument to include intelligent design and creation science "side by side" with evolution in the textbooks. SBOE member Thomas Ratliff asks which version of creationism should be in the textbooks. Bennett: "Biblical truth." Then he says all creationist beliefs (from all faiths) that are supported by scientific evidence should be taught. That might be an interesting class. But it sure wouldn't be science. 5:02 - Now the board hears from science defender (and YouTube…… Read More

For weeks we have been pushing the Texas Education Agency to release changes publishers are proposing in their responses to objections official reviewers have raised regarding their new science textbooks. It is simply unacceptable for the State Board of Education to adopt those new textbooks until Texans have a chance to see whether their children’s science instruction has been watered down because of demands from anti-science activists opposed to teaching about evolution and climate change.

This morning TEA sent out the following press release:

SBOE chair increases transparency in textbook adoption process

AUSTIN – In the interest of greater transparency during the current textbook adoption process, Barbara Cargill, chair of the State Board of Education, today announced she will ask publishers to voluntarily make public any additional content they are proposing for new instructional materials.

The board is in the process of adopting new materials for science for grades k-12, mathematics, k-8, and technology applications for use in Texas classrooms. A final vote on the submitted instructional materials will occur in November. But because of the increasing use of electronic content and the high interest in this adoption, Cargill will ask publishers to voluntarily make the new content… Read More

“Any statements made were my own personal beliefs.”

That’s how Karen Beathard, an official state textbook reviewer, defends telling publishers that the biology textbooks they submitted for adoption in Texas this year should include “creation science based on biblical principles.”

Her statement encapsulates precisely the problem with the science textbook adoption process in Texas. Some State Board of Education (SBOE) members decided to nominate reviewers based on their personal beliefs, not their qualifications or expertise. And because they did so, SBOE members have undermined public confidence that the review process was anything but a sham.

Ms. Beathard, a dietician/nutritionist, has every right to her personal beliefs. The Texas Freedom Network will stand up for her right to express those beliefs in public or in private. But Texas students should get a 21st-century education that prepares them for college and the jobs of today. That means their textbooks should be based on established, mainstream science, not the personal beliefs of individuals who simply aren’t qualified to evaluate those textbooks.

Today the State Board of Education will hold its first public hearing on the new science textbooks. TFN Insider will be live-blogging from that meeting. We will also be… Read More