COLUMBIA - The state Education Oversight Committee approved high school biology standards Monday that do not require students to learn to critically analyze the theory of evolution.
The wording of standards had caused an impasse between the committee and the state Board of Education.
Education board members and state education Superintendent Inez Tenenbaum worried the change would open the door to teaching alternative theories such as intelligent design.
Under the wording approved Monday, students would have to understand how scientists use data to critically analyze the theory.
"Scientific inquiry is taught at every grade level and in every discipline," Education Department spokesman Jim Foster said. "It does not require students to study alternatives to evolution that are decidedly out of the mainstream."
Monday's unanimous vote to approve the standards without more controversial wording came with almost no discussion, and there was no mention of evolution.
"I cannot see this as anything other than a victory," said Casey Luskin, a spokesman for Discovery Institute, a Seattle,-based think tank that urges critical analysis of evolution. "Students will now learn the scientific strengths and weaknesses of evolution."
Both the Board of Education and the oversight committee had to approve the biology standards before they could be adopted.
The standards have to be approved every seven years, meaning the debate could begin again in 2010.