Teachers in Alabama will be required to teach public school students in Alabama about climate change and evolution under new state science standards. The Alabama State Board of Education unanimously approved the standards, which are expected to be implemented in 2016, the Associated Press reported Sunday. The last time the state’s science standards were changed was in 2005.
At this time, the state’s standards for education regarding evolution say that students “should understand the nature of evolutionary theories," but they do not require it. A 40-member committee created the new course of study, and the committee included people “with strong religious beliefs” who took into consideration Alabama’s faith traditions when developing the new guidelines, Michal Robison, a science specialist for the state education agency, said, the AP reported.
Robison said, "We still have to teach what the science is," the AP reported. "If students want to go into a science field in college or beyond, they have to have a foundation."
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Teachers will also be required to address climate change. The new standards will not require students in the Bible Belt state to believe in the theory of evolution or accept the idea that climate is changing globally, WVTM 13 reported. For years, science textbooks in Alabama have included a disclaimer sticker advocated by Christian conservatives stating that evolution is a “controversial theory.” The new standards do not change those warnings, but a committee that is scheduled to review the textbooks could consider whether the stickers should be removed or altered. A hearing has been set for Nov. 9 in Montgomery, Alabama.
Some of the biggest changes to the state’s science standards, though, are the revised requirements for teaching methods, according to Steve Ricks, director of the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative. Under the new standards, teachers will be expected to require that their students learn more through observations and experimentation, and less through lectures and memorization.
Ricks said, "I don't see how students would be able to learn this material without doing the science," the AP reported. "We are trying to teach kids to reason and solve problems."
The statewide course of study sets only minimum standards. The curriculum will be decided by local school officials.