Inexact science? State’s proposed standards divide leaders, educators

For Katherine Bueler, teaching science starts with the age of the planet.

Scientists have proved Earth is about 4.6 billion years old, she tells her class of eighth-graders at El Camino Real Academy in Santa Fe. And from that point, she embarks on a sprawling, hourlong lesson with stops on evolution, early life forms, what it would be like to connect with potential life on other planets, the concept of gravity and who we are as a people today.

But if New Mexico’s proposed new standards for teaching science go into effect during the 2018-19 school year, there will be no mention of Earth’s age — and, some critics fear, perhaps no spirited discussion like the one Bueler has with her students. Gone from the new standards, too, are the basic concepts of evolution and humans’ impact on climate change.

“This is really unfortunate,” said David Evans, executive director of the National Science Teachers Association, an organization that came up with a set of new science teaching measures known as the Next Generation Science Standards, already adopted by 18 states. New Mexico chose not to use those standards this year, but it employed them as a framework to create its own system.

Evans doesn’t like how New Mexico has altered those standards. “There is a real danger in replacing science with politics in the classroom,” he said. “We need to be cognizant of the fact that we have an impact on the world that we live in.”

Click here to read the full story in the Santa Fe New Mexican (Sept. 24, 2017)

NSTA Encourages New Mexico PED to Reject Changes to Draft Science Standards

The New Mexico Public Education Department (PED) recently released draft K-12 STEM-ready science standards. While the draft standards are based heavily on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), select changes made to many of the performance expectations do not reflect the intent of the official NGSS document or the Framework for K-12 Science Education. These changes include the removal of the Earth’s age, the deletion of the “rise” in global temperatures with the word “fluctuation,” and the removal of other language regarding climate change and evolution.

In a letter to the New Mexico PED, NSTA encourages the Commissioners to reject the altered version of the standards and retain the original text of the NGSS, including those statements related to climate change and evolution.

NSTA encourages our New Mexico members to take action by submitting written comments to the PED and/or testifying at the October 16 hearing where public input will be received. For details, visit the NMSTA website.

Click here to view the NSTA letter to New Mexico.

Following is a collection of news articles:

Editorial Board: Listen to scientists on state standards (Las Cruces Sun-News, Sept 27, 2017)

Letters: Students deserve access to science (Las Cruces Sun-News, Sept. 24, 2017)

Inexact science? State’s proposed standards divide leaders, educators (Santa Fe New Mexican, Sept. 23, 2017)

MY VIEW: Words matter, science matters (Santa Fe New Mexican, Sept. 23, 2017)

LAPS school board to release resolution on proposed rules next week (Los Alamos Monitor, Sept. 22, 2017)


School Board Upset Over New Standards That Teach Man-Made Global Warming (The Daily Caller, Sept 20, 2017)

NEA-New Mexico Weighs in on New Mexico PED Proposal Science Education Standards (Los Alamos Daily Post, Sep 20, 2017)

Shenanigans in New Mexico (National Center for Science Education, Sept. 19, 2017)

Our View: Science Standards Fail Students (The New Mexican, Sept. 19)

The Same, but Different: New Mexico’s New School Science Standards Might Leave Out Climate Change, Evolution (Santa Fe Reporter, Sept. 19, 2017)

“WHOSE SCIENCE? Critics say proposed NM science standards omit evolution, climate change”

New Mexico’s Public Education Department unveiled proposed teaching standards this week that critics say would omit references to evolution, rising global temperatures and the age of Earth from the state’s science curriculum.

The standards are based on a science curriculum called the Next Generation Science Standards proposed in 2013 by a consortium of 26 states. But the New Mexico plan contains additions and deletions from the nationwide standards.

Among those changes, the proposal would eliminate a reference to Earth’s “4.6 billion year history” and replaced it with “geologic history” in the middle-school curriculum.

It also omits a reference to a “rise in global temperatures” and replaces it with “fluctuations” in temperature.

Critics call the proposal a “watered-down” version of the national standards that will weaken science education and discourage people and companies that value science education from moving to New Mexico.

Christopher Ruszkowski, secretary-designate for the Public Education Department, said the proposal gives New Mexico an opportunity to update its science curriculum in a way that reflects the “diversity of perspectives” in New Mexico.

The plan was criticized Friday by Stephanie Ly, president of the American Federation of Teachers New Mexico, who called it a “perverted, watered-down vision” of the Next Generation Science Standards.

Ly accused Ruszkowski in a written statement of proposing standards “that question climate change, deny evolution, promote the fossil fuel industry, and even question the age of the Earth – all areas of consensus among the scientific community.”


Click here to read the full story in the ABQ Journal (September 16, 2017)


Social media helps students learn scientific argumentation


University of Kansas researchers designed a curriculum unit to engage nearly 400 ninth-grade biology students in learning about scientific argumentation through social media use with their teachers and classmates. Argumentation is a key element of both “Next Generation Science Standards” and “Common Core State Standards.”

The project and publications grew out of a National Science Foundation grant to the university’s Center for Research on Learning (CRL). As part of the grant project, researchers worked with teachers and administrators in several urban and suburban Midwestern schools to teach students about Next Generation Science Standards for scientific argumentation, including asking questions, analyzing and interpreting data, engaging an argument from evidence, constructing explanations and obtaining, evaluating and communicating information, all via Twitter and Skype with their classmates and teachers.



Students not only demonstrated that they learned scientific argumentation better than their peers. The book chapter outlines how students who were not comfortable with making verbal arguments in class, such as individuals with autism spectrum disorders or those with social skill deficiencies, reported that they were more comfortable making arguments via social media as well.

Click here to read the full story on Feedspot website (September 13, 2017)

California gets waiver from administering old science tests, but only for last year

In a partial victory for California, the U.S. Department of Education has granted the state a retroactive waiver from administering outdated science tests, instead allowing it to give students pilot tests based on new science standards.

But the department granted the waiver only for the just completed school year. It made it clear that the waiver doesn’t apply to the current school year, and that if California did the same thing it did last year it could run afoul of the law and risk penalties that could include losing federal funds.

For over a year, the state has been locked in a conflict with the U.S. Department of Education over the way California is developing and implementing assessments to measure progress on the Next Generation Science Standards. These are standards the state adopted in 2013, replacing the old standards in place since 1998.


California is not planning to administer the old California Science Test this spring. Instead, it will administer a longer field test of the new version, with full implementation planned for the 2018-19 school year.

The California Science Teachers Association said it fully supports California’s approach to phasing in the new tests, and leaving the old tests behind. “We continue to support the science assessment implementation plan that was thoughtfully outlined by the California Department of Education last year,” said Jill Grace, the association’s president.

“Taking the time to allow students and teachers to experience both a pilot and field test without the pressure of accountability is essential and supportive of the measured approach to implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards that we support,” Grace said.

Click here to read the full story in Ed Source (September 13, 2017)

Science education inspires California teachers to use the environment as a classroom

Deep in the woods at the rustic U.C. Berkeley Forestry Camp in Meadow Valley, Calif., Rob Wade was hosting a series of all-day, comprehensive science education seminars for dozens of K-6 teachers with the Plumas Unified School District.

School would begin in a few days and the teachers were gladly giving up some of their summer vacation Aug. 14 through 18 to be part of this in-depth training with Wade, PUSD’s outdoor education coordinator. They were preparing for the Next Generation Science Standards that are fast becoming required learning nationwide.

The afternoon’s guest speaker was Sara Church of Lake Almanor, an environmental education expert who taught elementary school in San Diego for 37 years. Church shared tips on using the state-approved Education and the Environment Initiative Curriculum to teach environment-based lessons in science, history-social studies and English language arts.

“I loved opening my classroom every day,” Church told her fellow teachers. “And what you will love about working with the Next Generation Science standards and EEI Curriculum is how well they foster the process of discovery in your students.”

Click here to read the full story in the Plumas County News (September 7, 2017)

New Nebraska science standards, which include climate change, are approved

On September 8, the Nebraska State Board of Education approved new science standards. The board voted 6-1 to approve the standards, which will introduce climate change in Nebraska high school science classes for the first time.

During an hourlong hearing, 14 people testified in favor of the standards, many urging the board to retain the new language addressing climate change.

Others said they liked the way the standards will emphasize hands-on learning over memorization.

Chad Brassil, associate professor of biological sciences at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said the standards represent “good solid science, good solid science education.”

“The methods in these standards are fantastic in that they engage students in the process of science: looking at data, analyzing data, generating hypotheses, thinking about models. They ask the students to act like scientists.”\

Click here to read the full story in the Omaha World-Herald (September 9, 2017)

Click here to read a story on the National Center for Science Education website.


Helping Teachers Understand and Use New Science Standards

With the adoption of Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) by nearly 20 states, teachers are being asked to rethink the science content they teach and how they teach it. What can curriculum materials, which are used in nearly every classroom, do to help teachers meet the challenges posed by NGSS?

One answer comes from a team of scientists and education researchers at Project 2061, who have demonstrated that it is possible to design curriculum materials specifically to help teachers understand NGSS and support them in making its vision of three-dimensional learning a reality in their classrooms. Findings from the team’s study were published in a special January 2017 issue of the Journal of Science Teacher Education (JSTE) that focuses on the role of curriculum materials as tools for teacher learning.

The study draws on examples from Toward High School Biology (THSB), an innovative middle school curriculum unit developed by Project 2061 and its partners at BSCS. In a prior study, the Project 2061 team showed that students using the THSB unit had a better understanding of chemistry concepts central to biology than students using a traditional curriculum.

Click here to read the full story on the AAAS News Site (August 30, 2017)

Excited about science: Cabrillo High School among early adopters of new standards

A group of students and faculty members at a Lompoc Valley high school are helping pioneer the ways in which science will soon be taught in schools around the state.

The Cabrillo High School science department underwent an overhaul this summer to become one of the first in the state to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards that will soon be implemented statewide. The changes, which were introduced less than a month ago at the start of the new school year, promote more hands-on learning and allow teachers to introduce students to more robust content.

Although the updated curriculum has only been in place for a few weeks, teachers at the school are excited about what’s ahead.

Chris Ladwig, a science teacher at Cabrillo, said the old science standards were based on testing and essentially amounted to students memorizing lists of facts.
Click here to read the full story in the Santa Maria Times (September 2, 2017)

Reforming Science Education in California–A Primer

As schools across the state implement the Next Generation Science Standards, this new EdSource primer provides an easy-to-read guide for parents and other community members to understand the rationale for the standards and their potential to affect science instruction in California schools.

California adopted the Next Generation Science Standards, or NGSS, in 2013, representing the first update to the state’s science standards in nearly two decades. The new standards will significantly shape how science will be taught and tested as well as what students are expected to know and be able to do at each grade level.

Click here to read an extensive question and answer document by Ed Source (August 30, 2017)