Urgent! Help Shape Future Science Education in New Mexico
By Ryan Pemberton
On September 12, 2017, the New Mexico Public Education Department (PED) proposed replacing the current science education standards with the NM STEM Ready Standards. These new standards are based on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). However, a few key differences, including changes to what students would be required to learn about evolution and climate change, could have a negative effect on NM students’ science education. Some of the key differences between the NM STEM Ready Standards and NGSS are:
1) The NM STEM Ready Standards were likely developed by only a small number of people versus thousands for NGSS. PED has not released a statement about who wrote these proposed changes. NGSS were created as a collaborative effort by hundreds of scientists and educators based on the most up-to-date science knowledge and research on how students learn science. The two-part process of developing NGSS began in 2010.
a. Step 1. “A Framework for K-12 Science Education” was developed by teams from 26 states that included teachers, scientists, and education researchers. The Framework provides a sound, evidence-based foundation for standards by drawing on current scientific research—including research on the ways students learn science—and identifies the science all K–12 students should know. Comments from over 10,000 individuals helped to make the Framework used today (https://www.nextgenscience.org/developing-standards/developing-standards).
b. Step 2. The NGSS based on the Framework were written, reviewed, and revised multiple times with input from 26 states.
2) NM STEM Ready Standards provide teachers with a list of standards to cover without any background to integrate connections across science disciplines or resources to incorporate language arts and math in science lessons. NGSS shifts the way science is taught by including scientific practices, core ideas, and crosscutting concepts that help students achieve a deeper understanding of the content in a single standard. They ensure that science education reflects real-world interconnections in science that build on each other in a coherent manner across K-12. NGSS also coordinates with Common Core State Standards (CCSS) that are being used in New Mexico for language arts and math.
3) NM STEM Ready Standards increase the overall number of standards that need to be covered by teachers, in comparison to NGSS.
4) NM STEM Ready Standards include some non-scientific standards and standards that do not reflect a current understanding and consensus of science concepts (i.e. evolution and climate change). For example, the NGSS middle school standard MS-ESS1-4 reads, “Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence from rock strata for how the geologic time scale is used to organize Earth’s 4.6-billion-year-old history.” In the NM STEM Ready Standards, the standard is nearly the same, except the words “4.6-billion-year-old” have been deleted and replaced with the word “geologic” which removes a well-established scientific fact.
If you would like to compare other small and large differences between NGSS and NM STEM Ready Standards, they can be found in their full form at the following websites:
The public comment period for these proposed new standards ends on Monday, October 16. The Asombro Institute for Science Education will be submitting a letter explaining the reasons we feel these standards are inferior to the full NGSS and how these standards could have lasting negative consequences for students and their science education. If you feel inclined to voice your opinion too, we encourage you to submit a public comment to PED in one or more of the following ways:
• In person: Monday, October 16th 9:00am-12:00pm Mabry Hall in the Jerry Apodaca Education Building, 300 Don Gasper Ave., Santa Fe, NM 87501
• Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Fax: (505) 827-6681
All public comments must be received by 5:00pm on Monday, October 16th.