Would Texas state approval of the creationists’ masters degree program in “Science Education” jeopardize its satisfaction of the NCLB requirement for a “Highly Qualified Teacher” in every classroom, and its reciprocity arrangements for teacher qualification in other states?
In an editorial for the Edmond (OK) Sun, with the headline Knowing difference between science, religion important in schools, Dennis Weigand warns against the danger of Oklahoma being plagued by the kind of anti-science-education efforts seen now and recently in the neighboring states of Kansas and Texas.
Weigand calls attention to the record of anti-evolution rhetoric by Don McLeroy, recently appointed chair of the Texas State Board of Education, and to the forced resignation of Chris Comer, who had been head of science curriculum for the Texas Education Agency, apparently for forwarding an email with information about a talk by a critic of the Intelligent Design movement.
These are serious matters. But what if it’s not just Texas students, but the science teachers in that state who are not well enough educated in the sciences that they can tell the “the difference between science and religion”?
This question emerges in the context of a report recommending that the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board should approve the “Master’s Degree Program in Science Education” offered by the “Institute for Creation Research Graduate School.” (See this post on Ed Darrell’s blog for an overview of the program, and the links here for more information on TX & the creationist institute’s science education masters degree .)
According to the report by the evaluation team for the Texas Higher Education Board,
The proposed degree would be generally comparable to an initial master’s degree in science education from one of the smaller, regional universities in the state.
If that is true, and we can take this as a measure of the standard being applied by the Board to graduate programs generally, throughout the state, then how can anyone rely on a diploma, or a graduate degree, or a teaching credential from a Texas institution for confidence that a prospective teacher knows their subject well enough to understand the difference between what is, and what is not, the science of biology? What good are credentials, anyway, if they have no credibility?
Those who hire teachers, and those who certify teachers prepared in other states, rely on networks of reciprocity agreements, which they can rely on only so long as standards are being maintained by the reciprocating jurisdictions. In other words, Dennis Weigand in Oklahoma has more to worry about than the politics of Oklahoma’s own science education standards, so long as schools in his state could be hiring teachers whose preparation is from Texas-accredited institutions.
Moreover, the federal No Child Left Behind law mandates that there by a “Highly Qualified Teacher” in every classroom; so school principals now need to know (and report publicly) how the teachers that they hire qualify under this standard. Graduate degrees in the subject area to be taught are among the indicators of a teacher being “highly qualified” in their specific subject matter; but if the standard for degree program accreditation in Texas is such that the ICR’s distance education program meets the standard — which is presumably no different from the standard met by others for accreditation — then the reliability of Texas credentials as evidence of being “highly qualified” to teach biology must be called into question.
So, if the Board approves this program, we should look for the Education Departments in other states, and even the U. S. Department of Education, to reconsider any use of such credentials from that state; and I assume that the National Science Teachers Association and other professional associations of scientists and science educators would bring this problem to the attention of the responsible federal and state bodies, and of the broader public.
Click here for other posts on this blog on the Institute for Creation Research.