A former Arizona Department of Education employee says she resigned after she was told to make changes to parts of the draft Arizona Science Standards involving evolution.
Lacey Wieser is a former high school biology teacher who began her career with the Arizona Department of Education 14 years ago. Wieser says her most recent title was director of science and STEM. In 2016, she began the process of reviewing and updating the science standards.
More than 100 educators worked to develop the draft standards. After the document was submitted to the Arizona Department of Education, Wieser says, she was told to make edits with which she did not agree.
“I was directed to make changes to adjust the wording to 'evolution,'" she explained. "That was coming from levels above me, I believe, from the superintendent’s office. I turned in my resignation and said, 'I will not be part of this.'"
[ORIGINAL STORY: 'Evolution' nixed in portions of AZ school science standards draft]
Wieser says her last day on the job was Feb. 9, 2018. A spokesman for the Arizona Department of Education told Arizona's Family the agency would not comment on personnel issues.
Wieser was involved in the last science standards update in 2004. She says, typically, the state superintendent’s office will review the document for technical errors rather than make sweeping changes to content.
Because Wieser refused to make the edits on evolution, it’s unclear which ADE employee did. She points to the phrase “the theory of evolution seeks” used several times in the draft standards. Another part adds the word “may” to form the statement the “process of evolution may result from natural selection.”
“It sends the message that a theory is a guess as opposed to understanding that a theory is the highest level of explanation based on evidence that there is in science,” Wieser said.
Wieser also took issue with the addition of “key concepts” that seem to steer learning toward vocabulary terms, which, she says, may confuse students by loading on more terms rather than helping students grasp the big picture.
Superintendent Diane Douglas initially said she would not comment on the draft science standards until they are ready to be presented to the State Board of Education.
However, we were able to talk to Douglas one-on-one at an education forum Tuesday night about this. She says even though she admits to believing in creationism and intelligent design, that was not projected onto her edits in the draft.
“That is my personal opinion… let me back up my personal belief. But my personal belief and my professional opinion are two very different things," said Douglas.
She does claim, however, that parts of evolution are only a theory and not scientific fact, and believes Arizona students should be taught accordingly.
"What we know is true and what we believe might be true but is not proven and that’s the reality. Evolution has been an ongoing debate for almost 100 years now," said Douglas. "There is science to back up parts of it but not all of it."
When we asked Douglas if the "evolution" wording could go back to how it was originally written, she told us she believes they will continue moving forward.
After that time, an ADE spokesman says the educators who worked to create the new draft standards will make adjustments and provide a new version to Douglas in July. There may be a second round of public comment at that time.
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