Friday, June 25, 2010


Footnote Mystery

I'm finally getting around to looking through the decision on the Institute for Creation Research lawsuit against the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for its refusal to sanction the ICR's phony MS degrees in "science education."

Right off, one thing popped up in a footnote. In the course of describing the events that lead up to the denial of the ICR's application, Judge Sam Sparks recounts the fact that the initial "site team" from the Board that visited the ICR's "school" found that the "proposed master's degree in science education, while carrying an embedded component of creationist perspectives/views, is nevertheless a plausible program[,]" and would be "generally comparable to an initial master's degree in science education from one of the smaller, regional universities in the state."

To say the least, the reality-based community was universally perplexed at the time.

As explained by the judge, the procedure is as follows:

The site review team generally conducts an on-site review of the institution and prepares a report on the institution's ability to meet the Board's standards of operation. ... The institution then has thirty days in which to respond to the site review team's report; once it has done so, the Certification Advisory Council (the "CAC") will review both the site visit report and the institution's response and make a staff recommendation to the Commissioner. ... Upon receipt of the CAC's recommendation, the Commissioner will make his recommendation regarding the application to the Board, and the Board will either approve or deny the application.
As the decision notes: "Based on the report and ICRGS's response, the CAC recommended conditional approval of ICRGS's proposed program at its December 14, 2007 meeting."

The Board's Commissioner, Raymund Paredes, greatly to his credit, ordered a further review by another panel:

As justification for having a separate panel re-evaluate the proposed program, [Commissioner Paredes] stated that upon reading the initial site visit team's evaluation "[i]t was immediately clear to me that the review process had been flawed"—first, because the site visit team had "included no experts in science education," and secondly, because "the site visit team members were instructed to focus on questions of process and infrastructure and to disregard the academic focus of the proposed program[,]" and the CAC had followed a "similar tack" in its review.8
Instructed to ignore the "academic focus" in an application for "a certificate of authority to offer a Master of Science degree with a major in Science Education in Texas"? By Who?

That's where the smoking footnote comes in:

8 It should be noted ICRGS strongly disagrees the initial site visit team was asked to disregard the academic focus of the degree program and adamantly denies other members of the initial site team did not have science education experience (although it presents no evidence on this point). It refers to Commissioner Paredes's statements on these points a "revisionist mischaracterization" of the site team's actual evaluation. ... Commissioner Paredes does not indicate who, if anyone, instructed the site visit team to disregard the academic focus of the degree program. But because ICRGS does not dispute the Board has authority to re-evaluate a proposed program or to review a certain aspect of the program more thoroughly during the time the evaluation is pending, the Court finds no basis to dwell on the justification for the re-evaluation, which is unimportant.
So we're never going to find out who was trying to grease the skids for the forces in favor of lowering IQs in Texas?

Commissioner Paredes has done a great service for education in Texas and I'm certainly not going to blame him for avoiding stepping on a political landmine by naming names.

But let's not forget that this all went down at about the same time that the Texas Education Agency fired Chris Comer as director of science curriculum for not being "neutral" in the conflict between creationism and science. The people involved in that educational miscarriage might be a good starting point in assembling a list of suspects.

Glenn Branch of the NSCE has good background on this here.

I recall discussion at the time that the investigating committee was ill equipped to assess the science component of the ICR's courses, being "a librarian, an educational administrator, and a mathematician."

Education Commissioner Paredes, who is not a scientist, deserves praise for his actions.

While the original assessment committee was instructed not to talk to the press, it would be really interesting to find out who appointed them and, presumably, instructed them.
Thanks for the link ... it's nothing less than what I'd expect, if I had bothered to search the NSCE site, but it's always good to have it.

... being "a librarian, an educational administrator, and a mathematician.

There was a fourth person with a scientific background but she had to back out because of personal problems. You almost have to wonder if the 'personal problems'
involved being told not to consider the academic focus of ICR's bogus degree.
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