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A Comprehensive Analysis of High School Genetics Standards: Are States Keeping Pace with Modern Genetics?


"Science education in the United States will increasingly be driven by testing and accountability requirements, such as those mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act, which rely heavily on learning outcomes, or 'standards,' that are currently developed on a state-by-state basis. Those standards, in turn, drive curriculum and instruction. Given the importance of standards to teaching and learning, we investigated the quality of life sciences/biology standards with respect to genetics for all 50 states and the District of Columbia, using core concepts developed by the American Society of Human Genetics as normative benchmarks. Our results indicate that the states' genetics standards, in general, are poor, with more than 85% of the states receiving overall scores of Inadequate. In particular, the standards in virtually every state have failed to keep pace with changes in the discipline as it has become genomic in scope, omitting concepts related to genetic complexity, the importance of environment to phenotypic variation, differential gene expression, and the differences between inherited and somatic genetic disease. Clearer, more comprehensive genetics standards are likely to benefit genetics instruction and learning, help prepare future genetics researchers, and contribute to the genetic literacy of the U.S. citizenry."