GOP Lawmakers Question ACT Exam

Aug 15, 2012

FRANKFORT, Ky.  -- Some Kentucky lawmakers have expressed concerns about how evolution is taught to high school biology students.

The issue was brought up during a meeting of the Interim Committee on Education in Frankfort. The Independent and the Lexington Herald-Leader report that some Republican lawmakers took issue with questions on an end-of-course biology exam that they said seems to require the teaching of evolution as a fact instead of a theory.

ACT Educational Services vice president Ginger Hopkins said the test is designed to measure whether high school students are ready for college-level work. She said the questions are based on what college professors say students need to know.

The tests are part of new requirements from a 2009 bill to push Kentucky testing program to national standards for better comparisons of student success.

Committee Chairman Sen. Ken Winters said the concerns expressed at the Monday meeting were prompted by complaints from teachers.

Ben Waide, R-Madisonville, said he objected to evolution being presented to students as a fact.

"There is just no scientific evidence to support evolution as scientific fact," he said. "But if you hear it over and over enough, you think it's true."

Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, who is the general manager of a Christian radio station, said he had similar reservations.

"My concern is our students are indoctrinated into one way of thinking without any sort of intellectual freedom," Wilson said. "The evidence doesn't support evolution."

Sen. David Givens, R-Greensburg, said he asked whether Kentucky could have a personalized test, but was told that it would be costly and time-consuming.

Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday told committee members that the test is "based on evolution as a theory, not as fact" and that he has told that to several superintendents across the state who raised the same question.

Lawmakers questioned why creationism can't also be taught, to which Hopkins responded the test questions are based on what students must know for college.

Holliday later explained that courts have held that creationism is a religious belief, not a science; therefore, it can't be taught as science.

Winters said after the meeting that lawmakers wouldn't object to the test as long as teachers clarify to students that evolution is only a theory.