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NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2017/10/27

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear friends of NCSE,

Encouraging developments in New Mexico.

VICTORY IN NEW MEXICO?

"After facing an onslaught of opposition, New Mexico's Public
Education Department officials on Wednesday decided to adopt the Next
Generation Science Standards 'in their entirety,'" the Albuquerque
Journal (October 25, 2017), reports.

It is the third proposal for a new set of state science standards in
New Mexico within the space of two months. As NCSE previously
reported, the first proposal was to adopt a set of standards modeled
on the performance expectations of the Next Generation Science
Standards. But the proposed standards lacked important elements of the
NGSS (such as disciplinary core ideas, science and engineering
practices, and cross-cutting concepts), included dozens of new,
New-Mexico-specific, standards, and -- particularly of concern to NCSE
-- underwent editing by the Public Education Department to weaken
their treatment of evolution, climate change, and the age of the
earth.

After a month-long public comment period culminating in a public
hearing on the standards in Santa Fe on October 16, 2017, it was clear
that the proposal was generally unpopular, with scientific,
educational, environmental, business, and faith groups across the
state expressing their opposition. Referring to the public hearing,
the Albuquerque Journal (October 18, 2017) editorially commented,
"Herbert Van Hecke, a physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory,
seemed to sum up what nearly everyone in Monday's audience felt:
'Science is based on facts, evidence and hard work. We are not doing
kids any favors by allowing scientific flimflam into the classroom.'"

The day after the public hearing, the second proposal appeared. In
what the Santa Fe New Mexican (October 17, 2017) described as a
"surprise turnaround," the Public Education Department announced that
it "will revise its controversial proposal for new science teaching
standards, adding concepts that had been omitted, such as evolution,
global warming and Earth's age." Four standards were restored to match
the NGSS standards on which they were based, and the Public Education
Department subsequently indicated that the number of
New-Mexico-specific standards would be reduced. But there was still
unclarity about the exact contours of the proposal.

The third proposal -- to adopt the NGSS "in their entirety" with the
addition of only six New-Mexico-specific standards -- was launched on
October 25, 2017, and was immediately lauded as a significant
improvement. Ellen Loehman of the New Mexico Science Teachers'
Association told the Albuquerque Journal, "We thank the secretary
[Christopher Ruszkowski] for listening to all the public comments ...
We are pleased and looking forward to a good working relationship." It
is not yet clear, however, whether the standards will include the
whole of the NGSS -- and thus the disciplinary core ideas, the science
and engineering practices, and the cross-cutting concepts -- or just
the performance expectations.

The standards were under discussion during the October 26, 2017,
meeting of the Legislative Education Study Committee. According to the
Albuquerque Journal (October 26, 2017), state senator Mimi Stewart
(D-District 17), who chairs the committee, "applauded 'the huge outcry
from the science and business community' for demanding the state adopt
the NGSS standards as written." Amid the congratulations, however,
there were complaints about the absence of any Public Education
Department staff from the meeting, concerns about the
New-Mexico-specific standards, and warnings about the "long and costly
process of implementing the standards that will include paying for new
instructional materials and teacher training."

NCSE's deputy director Glenn Branch -- who told Mother Jones
(September 15, 2017) that the divergences from the NGSS in the first
proposal for the new state science standards were "evidently intended
to placate creationists and climate change deniers" -- commended the
Public Education Department for its decision to heed the critics of
the previous proposals. "New Mexico's students deserve to learn about
evolution, climate change, and the age of the earth in a way
consistent with the scientific community's understanding of those
topics," he commented, "and it's a relief, after all the furor, to be
confident that New Mexico's new state science standards will help to
ensure that they will."

According to the Albuquerque Journal, "[t]he new standards will go
into effect July 1, 2018, with full implementation in the 2019-2020
school year," although doubts were expressed at the LESC meeting that
the implementation could proceed so quickly.

For the Albuquerque Journal's October 25, 2017, article, visit:
https://www.abqjournal.com/1083181/ped-adopts-next-gen-science-standards-with-6-nm-additions.html 

For the Albuquerque Journal's editorial, visit:
https://www.abqjournal.com/1079303/forget-waldo-wheres-ruszkowski-on-science.html 

For the Santa Fe New Mexican's article, visit:
http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/education/state-to-rewrite-proposed-science-standards/article_2f89acb6-f0c8-56f7-929e-18c9554e9613.html 

For the Albuquerque Journal's October 26, 2017, article, visit:
https://www.abqjournal.com/1083678/lawmakers-other-cheer-science-standards-decision.html 

For the Mother Jones article, visit:
http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/09/new-mexico-remove-climate-change-evolution-public-education/ 

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in New Mexico, visit:
https://ncse.com/news/new-mexico 

WHAT'S NEW AT NCSE'S BLOG?

Have you been visiting NCSE's blog recently? If not, then you've missed:

* Stephanie Keep discussing floods and fires as teachable moments for
climate change:
https://ncse.com/blog/2017/10/wind-rain-fire-will-extreme-weather-events-affect-how-0018635 

For NCSE's blog, visit:
http://ncse.com/blog 

Thanks for reading. And don't forget to visit NCSE's website --
https://ncse.com -- where you can always find the latest news on 
evolution and climate education and threats to them.

--
Sincerely,

Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
1904 Franklin Street, Suite 600
Oakland CA 94612-2922
510-601-7203
fax 510-788-7971
branch@ncse.com 
http://ncse.com 

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