COLUMBUS, OHIO The state school board unanimously approved science standards Tuesday that more strongly advocate the teaching of evolution while allowing students to fully critique the theory's legitimacy.
The standards do not require the teaching or testing of the alternate concept of "intelligent design," which holds that the universe is guided by a higher intelligence. The vote was 18-0, with one member absent. In October, the board indicated it would adopt the new standards.
The board has struggled since January to write the science curriculum guidelines, which teachers will be encouraged - but not required - to follow because they will be the basis of new exams that students must pass to graduate.
Under the new standards, evolution will be the only origin-of-life theory covered on the tests, meaning schools that avoid teaching Charles Darwin's theory that life evolved by natural processes would risk putting their students at a disadvantage.
Local school districts can still decide to teach intelligent design - the idea that life must have been designed by a non-specified higher power because it is so complex - or other theories besides evolution. Some already teach other concepts.
Tuesday's vote was applauded by people on both sides of the issue.
"Intelligent design is out altogether. Now there's no way it will appear on standardized tests," said Patricia Princehouse, a philosophy professor at Case Western Reserve University and founder of Ohio Citizens for Science, a pro-evolution group.
Critics argue intelligent design is actually creationism, which the U.S. Supreme Court has prohibited from public schools as a violation of the separation of church and state. Intelligent design supporters deny that, saying that no designer is specified.
But backers of intelligent design also claimed victory because the standards will still permit teachers to examine the concept.