jefferson county public school

Alabama schools are getting new science standards for the first time in a decade. The state Board of Education voted unanimously today to replace old standards that some teachers say were behind the times the moment they were approved.

As evidence, they point to their students’ biology textbooks, many of which currently come with warning stickers that call evolution “a controversial theory.” The state’s old science standards say students should “wrestle with the unresolved problems still faced” by evolution.

“You might not accept it, but that doesn’t change the fact,” says science teacher Ryan Reardon, who isn’t a fan of the old standards. “Talking about evolution in a classroom is controversial, but there is no controversy about how all the organisms on the planet are related to each other.”

Reardon teaches at Jefferson County International Baccalaureate, one of the nation’s best public schools. He also helps write textbooks, and he and other science educators say Alabama’s old standards were dated and thin on evolution. Not so the new standards, which call it “established scientific knowledge.”

“We were really pleased to see that,” says Minda Berbeco, program director for the National Center for Science Education. She praises the shift to what she calls “a really positive, pro-science perspective.”

Alabama’s Science Standards Get A Makeover

Credit: LA Johnson/NPR

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Kentucky high school approves policy affirming rights of transgender students

J.M. Atherton High School in Louisville, Kentucky has passed a thorough nondiscrimination policy that will make conditions far safer and more respectful for transgender and gender nonconforming students. 

The school has been discussing a potential nondiscrimination policy for weeks, beginning when a trans student raised questions about their rights to use the correct bathroom. A council reviewed the information and voted 8-1 to pass an inclusive policy that could set the standard for the rest of the (traditionally LGBT-unfriendly) state. 

Specifically, the Atherton policy states that students, “upon prior approval and parameters set by the administration,” can use the restrooms and locker rooms “that correspond to their gender identity asserted at school” and explains that efforts will be made to arrange accommodations for students who need increased privacy. It also defines key terms like “gender identity,” “gender expression,” and “transgender.”

At the district level, Jefferson County Public Schools has not created similar transgender protections for all of its schools and Aberli said he’s unaware of other schools or districts in the area that have gone as far as Atherton has.

Protections for trans students that are this thorough usually only come from big cities and school districts in places where other LGBT equality measures have been passed. Granted, Louisville is a pretty liberal area, and this is only one school, but it’s still a fantastic policy – for Kentucky, and for anywhere.