Texas Board of Education Looks to Clarify Textbook Review Process; Move May Influence Future Debates Over Evolution, Global Warming Content

In a move meant to improve the textbook review process, the Texas Board of Education is looking to clarify the procedure in light of perennial controversies over their decisions.

Announced last Friday, the rules will take effect 20 days after they are filed on the Texas Register and involve what some observers are describing as stricter regulation.

Debbie Ratcliffe, director of media relations for the Texas Education Agency, told The Christian Post that the move "merely clarifies existing practices."

"For example, state board of education members can continue to communicate to panel members during the review; however, they cannot discuss the review of their materials," said Ratcliffe.

"The board also added a disclose requirement for nominations to the state review panels. Nominees must indicate if they were employed by an institution of higher education that has submitted open-source instructional materials."

The move on the part of the board will likely affect the ideological conflict often at work in the textbook approval process, according to Will Weissert of The Associated Press.

"The 15-member education board approves textbooks for school districts to use, but objections raised by reviewers can influence its decisions," reported Weissert.

"The volunteer review panels are often dominated by social conservatives who want more skepticism about evolution included in science textbooks, arguing that a higher power helped create the universe."

One of the more recent controversies before the board came late last year with a biology textbook that a review panel looked into after complaints were made regarding the factual claims in the textbook about evolution and climate change.

Pearson Education Inc., publisher of the biology textbook, disputed all errors claimed by the board members and listed rebuttals in a report.

Stephen Meyer of the creation group the Discovery Institute told The Dallas Morning News last November that he took issue with the Pearson biology textbook.

"[The textbook] will leave students in the dark about contemporary mainstream scientific controversies over Darwinian evolution," said Meyer.

"Unfortunately, because Texas is a major purchaser of textbooks, the board's action may have an adverse impact on science education across America for years to come."

Last December, a review panel approved the Pearson textbook despite the criticisms from creation science proponents over its content.

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