By Sarah Kallman, The Associated PressEvolution education programs are helping kids, but they’re not working for the majority of children, according to a new study.
While the results are promising, researchers say it’s still unclear what the most effective ways of teaching evolution are, or what works best for students with special needs.
The findings from the largest-ever study on evolution education are presented Tuesday at the American Psychological Association’s annual meeting.
It includes the results of more than 100,000 students in a variety of subjects who attended public and private schools.
“We are not saying this is a perfect model of teaching about evolution, but we are saying that there is enough evidence to suggest that these programs have a good track record in teaching evolution,” said lead author Robert J. Sternberg, an associate professor at Boston College and the John Bates Clark Distinguished Teaching Professor of Psychology.
Sternberg said the results show that evolution education isn’t helping the most common kids, those who are “at a special risk for developing autism spectrum disorders, or who are more likely to have ADHD or anxiety disorders.”
The findings were published Tuesday in the journal Developmental Science.
“What we’re finding is that most of the children that have been exposed to evolution in the public schools that we’ve looked at in this study are not getting very good outcomes,” Sternberg said.
The majority of students in public schools are not receiving a lot of instruction about evolution and about the world’s earliest humans, according a review of national surveys.
About one-third of children are not exposed to the word “evolution” in school, and one-in-four kids who are exposed are not learning about it in school at all.
A new study found that the public school environment was far from an ideal environment for students who are at special risk of developing autism, ADHD or other mental health problems.
The survey included a range of students ranging from toddlers to kindergartners, and they included nearly 4,000 kids in public and privately funded schools.
They were asked to report how often they learned about evolution in school and how often those experiences were helpful.
The results were more mixed than those for the children in private schools, which found about 1 in 5 students did not learn about evolution at all, and about 1 out of 5 children were not learning the word evolution at any level.
About 3 in 5 kids in private school were not taught the word creationism or evolution, and just 3 in 10 students were taught the creationism and evolution in their school.
Overall, only 13 percent of kids in the schools were taught about the word ‘evolution’ and just 7 percent of the students were exposed to it.
A majority of kids were taught in school about the origins of life, which led to fewer children being exposed to science or biology in their class.
“The findings suggest that evolution in public school may be less effective than in private,” Sternbrook said.
“That said, these findings do not suggest that it is impossible for children to be exposed to creationism, for example, and that the lessons of evolution may be particularly useful for children with special health needs.”
The new findings show that, even in private education, most students were not exposed in the right way, Sternberg noted.
“It is a shame that public school students are not being taught the words ‘evo-science’ or ‘evolved life,'” Sternberg added.
“It is time for public school educators to provide children with the appropriate context for learning about evolution.”
The study found children with autism spectrum disorder were more likely than their peers to be told that evolution was a fact, that it was the origin of life and that life was different from other life forms.
The study found a majority of boys with autism were not told that there was a link between evolution and autism.
“These findings suggest a need for public education and science-based curricula that are inclusive of students with developmental disabilities and special needs,” said Susan B. Greenfield, the director of the National Center for Education Statistics at the U.S. Census Bureau.
“This study demonstrates that science-informed learning has a positive impact on the lives of children.”
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