Evolution Readiness Progressions

The basic concepts of evolutionary theory are contained in the National Science Education Standards (National Research Council, Washington, DC, 1966) as well as those of the various states. For example, in the table below we show the alignment between the “big ideas” of evolution and the science standards for three states: Massachusetts, Missouri, and Texas. The “learning progressions” in the second column are adapted from the Atlas of Scientific Literacy (American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2007), while the quotes in the third column are from the Massachusetts Science Framework; we also index in that column the corresponding standards from the Missouri “Show-Me” Standards and the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills Standards.

Beginner Level

Big Idea Learning Progression MA Science Framework
Basic needs of organisms Plants and animals need air and water; plants also need light and nutrients; animals also need food and shelter. “Identify the ways in which an organism’s habitat provides for its basic needs.” See also MO Science K-4: VII.B.2, TEKS Grade 4:5.A&B
Organisms and their environment For any particular environment, some kinds of organisms survive well, some less well, and some cannot survive at all. “Identify the structures in plants and animals that enable them to survive in an environment.” See also MO Science K-4: VII.A.2, TEKS Grade 4:8.A
Interspecific differences Plants and animals have different life cycles that include being born, developing into adults, reproducing, and dying. “Classify plants/animals according the physical characteristics that they share.” See also MO Science K-4: VII.C.1
Basic needs of species Groups of organisms can survive even though every individual in the group eventually dies. “Give examples of how changes in the environment have caused some organisms to die.” See also TEKS Grade 4:8.B
Interactions between species Organisms with similar needs compete with each one another for resources. “Investigate how invasive species out-compete native ones.” See also MO Science K-4: VII.A.2, TEKS Grade 4:8.B
Intra-specific differences Individuals of the same species may differ. “Observe differences between organisms.” See also MO Science K-4: VII.E.2, TEKS Grade 4:8.A
Heritability of traits Offspring are usually very much, but not exactly, like their parents. “Differentiate between inherited and other characteristics.” See also MO Science K-4: VII.D.2, TEKS Grade 4:8.C

Intermediate Level

Big Idea Learning Progression State Learning Standards
Basic needs of species For a species to survive, the individual organisms in it must reproduce fast enough to replace the ones that die out. “Describe how organisms meet their needs by using behaviors in response to stimuli received from the environment.” See also MO Science 5-8: VII.C.1&2, TEKS Grade 5:5.A
Interactions between species Every animal species depends on another species, plant or animal, for food. “Give examples of how organisms can cause changes in their environment to ensure their survival.” See also MO Science 5-8: VII.E.2, TEKS Grade 5:5.B
Intra-specific differences Differences between individuals in a species may give some an advantage in surviving and reproducing. “Give examples of how inherited characteristics may change over time as adaptations to changes in the environment that enables organisms to survive.” See also MO Science 5-8: VII.E.1&3, TEKS Grade 5:10.B
Heritability of traits Some traits of organisms are inherited from their parents; others are learned or acquired. “Recognize that every organism requires a set of instructions that specifies its traits.” See also TEKS Grade 5:10.A

Advanced Level

Big Idea Learning Progression State Learning Standards
Heritability of traits Heritable characteristics can affect the likelihood that an organism will survive and reproduce “Relate the extinction of species to a mismatch of adaptation and the environment.” See also MO Science 5-8: VII.E.4, TEKS Grade 7.10.C
Genetics Heritable traits are transmitted from parents to offspring via different forms of genes, called alleles. “Recognize that hereditary information is contained in genes located in the chromosomes of each cell.” See also TEKS Grade 7.10.C
Survival of fittest individuals in an ecosystem Offspring of advantaged individuals are more likely than others to survive and reproduce, increasing the proportion of organisms that have advantageous traits. “Recognize that biological evolution accounts for the diversity of species developed through gradual processes over many generations.” MO Science 5-8: VII.E.4, TEKS Grade 7.10.B

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