A new study by the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG), the country's leading genetics scientific society, found that more than 85 percent of states have genetics standards that are inadequate for preparing America's high school students for future participation in a society and health care system that are certain to be increasingly impacted by genetics-based personalized medicine.
ASHG's study findings are being published in the Sept. 1 issue of the CBE-Life Sciences Education journal.
"Science education in the United States is based on testing and accountability standards that are developed by each state," said Michael Dougherty, PhD, director of education at ASHG and the study's lead author. "These standards determine the curriculum, instruction, and assessment of high school level science courses in each state, and if standards are weak, then essential genetics content may not be taught."
According to ASHG's study, which included all 50 states and the District of Columbia:
- Only seven states have genetics standards that were rated as 'adequate' for genetic literacy (Delaware, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Washington).
- Of the 19 core concepts in genetics that were deemed essential by ASHG, 14 were rated as being covered inadequately by the nation as a whole (or were absent altogether).
- Only two states, Michigan and Delaware, had more than 14 concepts (out of 19) rated as adequate. Twenty-three states had six or fewer concepts rated as adequate.
"ASHG's findings indicate that the vast majority of U.S. students in grade 12 may be inadequately prepared to understand fundamental genetic concepts," said Edward McCabe, MD, PhD, a pediatrician and geneticist who is the executive director of the Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome at the University of Colorado. "Healthcare is moving rapidly toward personalized medicine, which is infused with genetics. Therefore, it is essential we provide America's youth with the conceptual toolkit that is necessary to make informed healthcare decisions, and the fact that these key concepts in genetics are not being taught in many states is extremely concerning."
- M. J. Dougherty, C. Pleasants, L. Solow, A. Wong, H. Zhang. A Comprehensive Analysis of High School Genetics Standards: Are States Keeping Pace with Modern Genetics? Cell Biology Education, 2011; 10 (3): 318 DOI: 10.1187/cbe.10-09-0122
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