Lynn Elfner's testimony to the Ohio Board
of Education on March 7, 2000


March 7, 2000

Madame President, members of the Board, Dr. Zelman, senior staff and guests: My name is Lynn Elfner; I'm Executive Officer of the Ohio Academy of Science. I appreciate this opportunity to summarize the views of the Academy on the Proposed 12th Grade Science Competencies. Separately you have received and the staff has reviewed our more detailed written comments.

"Let's be clear about education in Ohio." That's a vision expressed in a recent report of the Joint Council to the Board of Regents in the Department of Education. In fact, they said, "Imagine the power of an educational system with clear expectations." In marked contrast of that vision, the December 1999 12th Grade Science Competencies present a blurred vision, especially in the areas of evolution and biotechnology.

And without significant changes the Academy still cannot support competency #13 which addresses the theory of biological evolution without using the "E" word, "evolution". We are confident that those who write the proficiency test questions will use the proper scientific terminology. I assume their work will be peer-reviewed. I know it has been in the past because we have provided peer reviewers for that process. Why, then, should we avoid proper terminology in the current competencies? We have suggested two substitute wordings for #13, specifically: "As a foundation for understanding and applying evolution relate patterns of diversity, extinction, adaptation, speciation, and so forth" And there is an alternative there with only five words added.

Although I'm pleased with the broadening of the concepts in competency #12 dealing with biotechnology, we suggest adding parenthetically "medical and agricultural" as examples of biotechnology-related fields and include a phrase that asks students to examine the benefits and applications of biotechnology to the food and drug industries. I've given you a specific wording on that.

We are in favor of a new competency suggested by Board Member Joe Roman along the lines of "Communicate how new science and technology developments become commercialized." I've read the competency proposed to you today. I do not agree with the wording that's proposed that you now have. This was from yesterday's discussion. That competency addresses the critical, entrepreneurial issue of applying and translating scientific and engineering knowledge to new technology to meet human needs in the marketplace.

Finally, we suggest including a new competency under the broad category "Earth and Space Science". I think this would play well anyone from a utility industry in Ohio. There is no mention of energy, for example. So, "Demonstrate an understanding of energy in the earth system, geochemical cycles, origin and evolution of the earth system and origin and evolution of the universe." With all the debate over utility reform and gasoline prices, the Board would be remiss not to include this competency. Indeed, knowledge of fossil fuel as implied in this suggested new competency is essential to understanding several related public policy issues.

In marked contrast to the blurred vision of the 12 Grade Competencies we think you ought to look seriously at the document that was discussed yesterday being presented to the Board of Regents. Finally, we want to commend the department for its effort to involve the public in these discussions, especially the staff. The staff has done a wonderful job of taking into consideration the comments from a large number of people. Let me end there. You have a written copy of my testimony. Thank you.

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