Public school administrators' knowledge and perceptions regarding the laws that govern the teaching of evolution in Georgia
The teaching of evolution continues to be a greatly debated issue in education. However, little research has focused on administrators' roles in this debate. This research gathered information from middle/high school principals and curriculum directors in 36 districts served by the three northernmost Regional Educational Service Agencies in Georgia. This research focused on administrators' knowledge of the laws governing the teaching of evolution, intelligent design, and creationism as well as their familiarity with state standards. A 43-item quantitative survey was mailed to 491 administrators. The first 14 items were categorical inquires that were correlated to two exam scores using the chi-square method. The first exam score was related to the administrators' knowledge of the laws that govern the teaching of evolution in the United States, and the second exam score was related to the knowledge of the evolution standards in the Georgia Performance Standards. A qualitative component accompanied the survey research. Twelve administrators were individually interviewed about the laws governing the teaching of evolution, their understanding of curriculum mandates concerning the teaching of evolution, and the issues they face in their own schools concerning this topic. The research study indicated that Georgia administrators were highly lacking in the knowledge of the laws that govern the teaching of evolution and the Georgia Performances Standards on evolution. Building- and district-level issues on evolution were a rarity in the schools of Northern Georgia. Graduate administrative coursework and professional development were deficient. While principals agreed that evolution should be taught, several also wanted creationism and intelligent design in their science classrooms. Principals often left their religious feelings at the door and expected teachers to follow the state standards. Many reported creationism and intelligent design were being taught by their staff as they turned a blind eye or did not realize it was against the law. Historically, most studies on evolution in public schools revolve around the curriculum, teachers, parents, or students. This study is important because it focuses on the administrator's knowledge and experiences regarding evolution.