PED Secretary Reverses Course on Science Standards: Call to Action Still Needed

On Monday, the Secretary of Education and the PED Commissioners skipped testimony from a few hundred outraged teachers, scientists, parents and others. But Secty, Ruszkowski apparently got wind of the input as late yesterday, PED announced it will reconsider its proposed changes to the Next Generation Science Standards. But this battle is not over.

Continued Action for Science Needed.  While we should be relieved that the PED and its Secretary of Education have decided to respond to some of the complaints about proposed changes to the New Generation Science Standards, the Secretary was hardly committal to specifically what would be reincorporated, in what format or what other changes may be inserted. According to a Santa Fe New Mexican report, PED Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski released a statement Tuesday night indicating the public comments and protests paid off. “We have listened to the thoughtful input received and will incorporate many of the suggestions into the New Mexico Standards,” he said.

It is important that those who support full adoption of the NGSS continue to call and email the members of the Public Education Department Board and the Secretary of Education to ensure that NM curriculum and instruction follow the lead of other states and adopt the NGSS unrevised. While heartening that our voices appear to matter, it is not heartening that the Secretary only indicated incorporating “many” of the suggestions made. It is still more concerning that the DEP refuses to identify who was making the suggestions that were incorporated in the DEPs initial revision of NGSS or why any revisions are thought necessary.

Ruszkowski has been quoted as stating that the new language has indicated that the proposed changes to the Next Generation Science Standards had been derived from ‘a variety of sources’ but has refused to identify where.  An online search identified very similar changes introduced in West Virginia and Arkansas, beacons of educational excellence. No doubt these changes are inspired by ‘input’ from gas and oil industry lobbyists, religious fundamentalist groups, and likely ALEC.

Given the secrecy with which the proposed changes were developed, I wonder what back door conversations are being had right now to accommodate those suggesting the original changes. Since we won’t be invited to those meetings, or even informed of who will be meeting, I think it remains important that over the next few days, we let the Secretary and PED Commissioners know where we stand

Most members of the PED and the Education Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski were absent from the hearings held yesterday,. Two hundred speakers gave their testimony with no one speaking in favor of the proposed revisions to the Next Generation Science Standards. I am guessing none of the PED Commissioners or the Superintendent will read the scores of pages of that testimony. So we need to make sure that they understand that we are paying attention to this vote and will hold each one of them accountable.

From last week’s blog a quote from Ars Technica captures some of the most offensive changes to the NGSS proposed by PED: “A mention of “Earth’s 4.6-billion-year-old geologic history” was chopped down to “Earth’s history,” neatly getting rid of the information about how old it is. A reference to the evolution of life was cut entirely. The clear rise in global temperatures was swapped out in favor of talk about temperature fluctuations. In short, the proposed new standards get rid of basic facts, specifically in areas that are politically or culturally contentious.”  Click here to read last Thursday’s post which described the science standard issue and the most offensive edits to the curriculum, but you don’t really need to know much more than this to weigh in on something so overtly wrong-headed. It just remarkable that these kinds of changes were even proposed. But the larger issue is that this should remind us of the critical importance of the 2018 elections, as those in charge at a state and national level are constantly making other dollar-lubricated, wrong-headed decisions behind closed doors in countless other areas. Lobbyists and legislators in bed with the corporatocracy are revising regulations to allow:

  • exploitation of our land and water,
  • concentration of power,
  • expansion of barriers to the ballot box,
  • elimination of health and safety standards,
  • revision of tax policy to the benefit of the 1% and at the immense detriment of the vast majority of Americans; and
  • deregulation of the insurance industry so as to allow the sale of less expensive but deeply flawed insurance policies to unsuspecting consumers.

We need to connect these dots and understand that the trail leads back to a capitalist corporatocracy that values profit over people and planet and that will gut truth in science and honest discussion of issues to facilitate achievement of their ends.

Click here to get a map of the PED Commissioner District boundaries and contact information for all ten Commissioners. Oddly, or perhaps not so oddly, a 20-minute search for contact information for the Secretary of Education lI found no email address and only the main DEP phone number. I’d suggest everyone call (505) 827-5800 and ask for contact information for the Secretary and then send emails and leave voice mails with both the Secretary and your DEP Commissioner. I’d also suggest your sharing this post with anyone who you think cares about K-12 education, the integrity of our state’s instruction, and the future of our planet and ask them to also make calls. After the hearing, the DEP announced it would take weeks to make a decision, but now it appears this may happen more quickly.

Your message needn’t be long, although the degree to which you can personalize your message, as to why you care about this issue and then simply indicate (Important: Use your own words)  that:

  • The Next Generation Science Standards were developed by scientists, educators and experts in curriculum and instruction;
  • They should not be adulterated for political or religious reasons;
  • Omissions of references to evolution, climate change, and the age of the earth are simply preventing our students from wrestling with the real wold’s challenges and that is not ok.

It would be good to incorporate into your input, advice that PED should be more transparent about who provides input into the NGSS and any future instructional policy. Please tell PED that they should resist influence that is patently designed to limit inclusion not just of scientific issues of merit but of issues in history and social science classes as well. Recall that Santa Fe Public Schools has historically incorporated revisionist, colonialist representations of the conquest and genocide committed against Native tribes over the last 500 years. How are students supposed to develop the capacity to weigh important issues if they are not trusted to wrestle with history and science authentically?

Please take a few minutes every few days to contact your Commissioner and the Secretary and even more importantly to get 3-4 or more friends to do the same. These are our elected/appointed officials and just as we need to hold our legislative representatives accountable, we need to do the same with these officials. 

In solidarity,

Paul & Roxanne

5 thoughts on “PED Secretary Reverses Course on Science Standards: Call to Action Still Needed

  1. Paul, email function for ed. dept didn’t work yesterday, their phone message doesn’t allow transfer to director and commissioner we need a more direct access method. I think we should call for secretaries’ resignation PCR

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  2. I just sent a message to District 4. It was great having that map available. This really scares me that Arkansas sort of stuff makes it to NM.

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  3. of course, no one answers the telephone number you gave (1-505-8275800) but I am not surprised.I called 5 times and it rang 20+ times each. I left a voice mail and sent an email to Commissioner for District 10. Thanks for what you do.

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