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Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Apples and Oranges

UPDATE: Volusia School Board Supports Teaching of Evolution; revised graphics below the fold.

Dr. Debra Walker of the Monroe County (Florida) School Board deserves a nice, big, shiny red apple.

As Jeremy noted yesterday, archaeologist* Walker did some digging into the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) scores of some counties in northern Florida. Yes, these are the counties whose school boards have been raising all kinds of ruckus about adding the "e-word" to the state science standards. Panda's Thumb has an excellent map detailing the counties in Florida with their stance on evolution.

Lo and behold, Dr. Walker found that the students in those counties are the ones who have the lowest scores in the state on the science portion of the FCAT.

This graph above compares the average raw FCAT scores of the counties that have indicated support for or rejection of teaching evolution with the statewide FCAT scores. [Note: corrected 8th- and 11th-grade score transposition 17:44 02-14.]

These scores show the percent of students who scored at or above a "3" on a 1 - 5 scale, analogous to scoring at or above the "proficiency" level on the Kansas state assessments. [Note: corrected 8th- and 11th-grade score transposition 17:44 02-14.]

These graphs starkly illustrate the need for stronger evolution education. In those counties where evolution is strongly supported, FCAT science scores are significantly higher. In the counties where evolution education is strongly opposed, science literacy is below the state average.

Granted, FCAT scores aren't the be-all and end-all of measures of science mastery. Also, only two three counties have expressed support of evolution education, so that sample size is unavoidably limited at this point. The data used to generate these graphs is summarized below; please click to enlarge.
[Note: updated 07:00 02-14 to include data for Bay County.][Likewise, 17:05 02-17 for Volusia County]

The Orlando article also mentions a blurb from Mr. Dallas Ellis from the Panhandle. Mr. Ellis seems to think that if humans, pets, and oranges are related by a common ancestor, anyone who enjoys eating an orange might as well be partaking of their neighbor's dog. Or their own cat. One wonders how this gentleman takes care of his pets. When they're in need of medical attention, does he take them to his local vet or does he consult his local nurseryman whose specialty is the growing of oranges?

"Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge" is the first part of Charles Darwin's quote at the top of the page. Dr. Walker of Monroe County and Mr. Ellis of the Panhandle quite succinctly illustrated the difference between knowledge and ignorance - apples and oranges - on Monday, the day before Darwin's 199th birthday.

*Dr. Walker assured me via email that she is an archaeologist, not a physical anthropologist as stated in the article. She also pointed out that she's not the current chair of the Monroe County Board of Education - another goof on the Orlando paper's part.


2/15/2008 16:07 CST - The Volusia County Schools have been supportive of evolution in the past, even calling it by name in their district curriculum guide:

For example, according to Volusia County Schools' current curriculum guide, high-school Biology I requires students to gain an understanding of how genetic variation of offspring contributes to population control in an environment, and requires students to understand that the theory of evolution posits that natural selection ensures those best adapted to their surroundings will survive to reproduce.

Graph of raw scores, revised to reflect Volusia County scores:

This graph shows the number of standard deviations between the state average and the averages of the counties accepting/rejecting evolution:

posted by Cheryl Shepherd-Adams

<< Home | ScienceDebate2008 Has a Date >> | Summary Article About Florida Hearings >> | Dover Isn't Over: Is Florida Next? >> | Evolution Sunday: Layers of Significance >> | Outstanding Editorial From Minnesota >> | Texas Academy of Science Weighs In >> | Evolution Wins Gold Medal in Sunshine State >> | Addressing Common Misconceptions >> | Avoid the Controversy? >> | Show Your Support for Florida's Science Standards >>

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