A new study by the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG), the country's leading genetics scientific society, found that more than 85 percent of states have genetics standards that are inadequate for preparing America's high school students for future participation in a society and health care system that are certain to be increasingly impacted by genetics-based personalized medicine. ASHG's study findings are being published in the September 1 issue of the CBELife Sciences Education journal.
"Science education in the United States is based on testing and accountability standards that are developed by each state," said Michael Dougherty, PhD, director of education at ASHG and the study's lead author. "These standards determine the curriculum, instruction, and assessment of high school level science courses in each state, and if standards are weak, then essential genetics content may not be taught."
According to ASHG's study, which included all 50 states and the District of Columbia:
- Only seven states have genetics standards that were rated as 'adequate' for genetic literacy (Delaware, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Washington).
- Of the 19 core concepts in genetics that were deemed essential by ASHG, 14 were rated as being covered inadequately by the nation as a whole (or were absent altogether).
- Only two states, Michigan and Delaware, had more than 14 concepts (out of 19) rated as adequate. Twenty-three states had six or fewer concepts rated as adequate.
[NOTE: ASHG's 19 core genetics concepts are listed on page 3 of the embargoed paper. Also, see pages 5-6 for two U.S. map charts that provide a state-by-state summary of the quality and comprehensiveness of genetics coverage in states' science education standards. For a list of the individual concept scores for each state, see the supplementary data chart posted at: www.ashg.org/education/pdf/StateConceptScores.pdf.]
"We hope the results of ASHG's analysis help influence educators and policy makers to improve their state's genetics standards," said Dougherty. "Alternatively, deficient states might benefit from adopting science standards from the National Research Council's Framework for K-12 Science Education, which, although not perfect, does a better job of addressing genetics concepts than most state standards that are currently in place."
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Citation: CBE-Life Sciences Education, Vol. 10, 1-10, Fall 2011