Standards

Table: Evolution Concepts

November 08, 2005 2 min read

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More detailed information on the research and methodology used for this story can be found in the EPE Research Center brief, “Evolution in State Science Education Standards.”

An Education Week review shows that state science standards are uneven in their treatment of evolution. The analysis looked at how well 41 states covered 10 concepts related to evolution identified in the 1996 National Science Education Standards.

General Concept NSES Language States With Matching Content (out of 41)
Biological adaptation and survival Biological evolution accounts for the diversity of species developed through gradual processes over many generations. Species acquire many of their unique characteristics through biological adaptation, which involves the selection of naturally occurring variations in populations. Biological adaptations include changes in structures, behaviors, or physiology that enhance survival and reproductive success in a particular environment. 39
Natural selection Like other aspects of an organism’s biology, behaviors have evolved through natural selection. Behaviors often have an adaptive logic when viewed in terms of evolutionary principles. 35
Fossil record reflects changing life forms Fossils indicate that many organisms that lived long ago are extinct. Extinction of species is common; most of the species that have lived on the Earth no longer exist. 34
Environmental changes affect survival Extinction of a species occurs when the environment changes and the adaptive characteristics of a species are insufficient to allow its survival. 32
Similarity among diverse species Natural selection and its evolutionary consequences provide a scientific explanation for the fossil record of ancient life forms, as well as for the striking molecular similarities observed among the diverse species of living organisms. 27
Mechanisms of evolution Species evolve over time. Evolution is the consequence of the interactions of (1) the potential of a species to increase its numbers; (2) the genetic variability of offspring due to mutation and recombination of genes; (3) a finite supply of the resources required for life; and (4) the ensuing selection by the environment of those offspring better able to survive and leave offspring. 22
Classification systems reflect evolutionary relationships Biological classifications are based on how organisms are related. Organisms are classified into a hierarchy of groups and subgroups based on similarities which reflect their evolutionary relationships. Species is the most fundamental unit of classification. 22
Variable effects of genetic change Changes in DNA (mutations) occur spontaneously at low rates. Some of these changes make no difference to the organism, whereas others can change cells and organisms. Only mutations in germ cells can create the variation that changes an organism’s offspring. 21
Common ancestry of species Millions of species of animals, plants, and microorganism are alive today. Although different species might look dissimilar, the unity among organisms becomes apparent from an analysis of internal structures, the similarity of their chemical processes, and the evidence of common ancestry. 20
Time frame of biological evolution The great diversity of organisms is the result of more than 3.5 billion years of evolution that has filled every available niche with life forms. 6

SOURCE: National Science Education Standards; EPE Research Center
A version of this article appeared in the November 09, 2005 edition of Education Week as Evolution Concepts

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