Make teachers take an evolutionary biology course in college. So say the authors of a recent PLoS Biology paper (italics mine):
The majority of teachers, however, see evolution as central and essential to high school biology courses. Yet the amount of time devoted to evolutionary biology varies substantially from teacher to teacher, and a majority either avoid human evolution altogether or devote only one or two class periods to the topic. We showed that some of these differences were due to personal beliefs about human origins. However, an equally important factor is the science education the teacher received while in college. Additional variance is likely to be rooted in pressures–subtle or otherwise–emerging from parents and community leaders in each school’s community, in combination with teachers’ confidence in their ability to deal with such pressures given their knowledge of evolution, as well as their personal beliefs.
These findings strongly suggest that victory in the courts is not enough for the scientific community to ensure that evolution is included in high school science courses. Nor is success in persuading states to adopt rigorous content standards consistent with recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences and other scientific organizations. Scientists concerned about the quality of evolution instruction might have a bigger impact in the classroom by focusing on the certification standards for high school biology teachers. Our study suggests that requiring all teachers to complete a course in evolutionary biology would have a substantial impact on the emphasis on evolution and its centrality in high school biology courses. In the long run, the impact of such a change could have a more far reaching effect than the victories in courts and in state governments.
One of the difficult things about causing any form of political change, particularly when it is an issue where failure does not have dramatic and widespread effects, is that it’s often the details that matter. Teacher certification is one of those things (and handwashing in public health is another).