- New legislation in Florida has advocates for education of evolution and climate change worried, as “concerned citizens” will now be allowed to lodge complaints with education officials on content taught in classrooms regardless of whether they have a student enrolled, according to The Washington Post.
- The news comes as the National Science Teachers Association and the STEM Education Coalition are expressing concern that the U.S. Department of Education and Secretary Betsy DeVos are misinterpreting the Every Student Succeeds Act by arguing that states cannot use students’ performance in science as an accountability measure.
- In a letter to DeVos, the two organizations argued that the lack of accountability in science education due to No Child Left Behind’s focus on math and reading inhibited science education, as the subject was not adequately taught because it was not included in state tests.
The guidance from the Department of Education in response to some ESSA state accountability plans have flummoxed some state education officials, who expected that there would be less oversight from an dducation secretary like DeVos, who prefers school choice and has spoken against onerous federal regulatory power. DeVos has not been a vociferous critic of teaching evolution or speaking out against climate change (though she notably expressed public support for President Donald Trump’s decision to exit the Paris Climate Accords), but even if she was a backer of teaching climate science in schools, an education department under her leadership may not be as willing to utilize whatever power of oversight the federal government retains over decisons in states like Florida.
Dissuading states from considering scientific achievement in accountability assessments could be problematic for those who criticize the teaching of creationism in schools. If such assessments were utilized, there would likely be more emphasis on teaching evolution and climate change. Reducing science accountability could make it harder for school leaders and education officials to assess that individual educators are placing an emphasis on offering quality education to students. This lack of accountability would also make it difficult to fulfill the emphasis that Trump’s administration has placed on boosting the participation of women in STEM fields. Trump signed legislation in March mandating that NASA and the NSF produce plans on how to improve female involvement in STEM learning, but without mandated assessment, such plans may be saddled with an inherent limit.