Science standards meeting fills state hearing room

Hundreds appeared Monday in Santa Fe for the single public hearing scheduled to comment on controversial science standards proposed by the state’s Public Education Department.

Two Los Alamos schools officials, Superintendent Kurt Steinhaus and board member Andrea Cunningham, had signed up to speak, but due to a lengthy interruption from a false fire alarm and problems managing the hearing’s sign-in sheets, the two didn’t speak. A second board member was called on to speak.

Next Gen science standards were developed in 2013 by a consortium of 26 states, including people in New Mexico, and other organizations, such as National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Research Council.

Changes made at PED include replacing references to climate change with “temperature fluctuations,” removes mention of the earth’s age as 4.8 billion years, and tweaks instruction on evolution.

Attendees and commenters included scientists, educators and school officials, young students, academics, a rabbi, a Franciscan nun, and a politician or two.

Audience members clapped and cheered after every statement.


Calling one of the standards “propaganda for the oil and gas industry,” Los Alamos school board member Ellen Ben-Naim testified that renewable energy sources in New Mexico were ignored by the PED’s proposal.

She noted that PED and its secretary designate Christopher Ruszkowski, who wasn’t at the hearing, appeared to have ignored vetting requirements of instructional materials.

Click here to read the full story in the Los Alamos Monitor Online (October 16, 2017)



The next generation of science education means more doing

Five groups of high school students worked around tables in Vielca Anglin’s science classroom on a recent afternoon at City-As-School in New York City. They had half-liter water bottles in front of them and a range of materials including pebbles, soil, rice, marbles, scouring pads and gauze. Their task: create a gravity-driven water filtration system that gets dirty water as clean as possible. It was up to them to decide what materials to use and in what order.

The lesson came five days after Hurricane Maria had pummeled Puerto Rico, when residents had started to realize the lack of access to clean water could cause a public health crisis on the island. Anglin was asking students to think and act like scientists and engineers.

“That’s what this class is about,” Anglin said. “Getting students to understand that they’re designers, that they’re engineers, and they can be a part of these real-world issues and real-world problems that are coming up.”



This type of project reflects the best intentions of the Next Generation Science Standards, which encourage teachers to enable students to learn science by doing. Drafted by representatives of K-12 education, higher education, industry and state governments between 2011 and 2013, the standards call for schools to help students build on science knowledge from one year to the next and make connections across disciplines that have historically been approached as completely separate.


The Next Generation Science Standards, adopted so far by 18 states and the District of Columbia, demand a three-dimensional approach to instruction. Each lesson should combine “practices,” or the behaviors of real scientists and engineers; “cross-cutting concepts,” which clarify connections across science disciplines and help students create a coherent view of the world based on science, and “disciplinary core ideas,” or the fundamental ideas students must know to understand a given science discipline.

Click here to read the full story in the Hechinger Report (October 11, 2017)


Science lessons cook up collaboration

Vincent Matthews, superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District, explores what’s starting to happen as they change how they teach science.


We already know that if our students are to thrive in the global economy and be eligible for jobs in the ever-expanding field of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, they need a solid science education that prepares them.

But we haven’t really changed how we teach science as rapidly as our world has changed.

We have seen a lot of major advances in science. We also know a lot more about how students actually learn.

So, this year we are teaching the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).


For a long time, most subjects in school were taught in separate classes. For instance, math teachers didn’t coordinate with engineering teachers on their lesson plans.

But that’s not how it works in the work world — or most projects would fail.

At SFUSD we developed our Vision 2025 plan and our Next Generation Science Standards curriculum with biotech industry leaders, engineering executives and university professors, among others.

You know what they said? They want employees who can look at a problem together and come up with creative solutions. They need people who can apply concepts in new ways.

Memorizing facts and working independently are just not enough. They also need people who can explain their new solutions well to others.


There I was, on the first day of school, at Buena Vista Horace Mann with dozens of students approaching the eclipse with art, measurements and pin holes. Everywhere students were marveling at the moon covering the sun — sharing with others what they saw happening, and why.

This is how we approach science education. Communication, collaboration, inquiry, problem solving and flexibility — these skills will serve them well throughout their lives.


Click here to read the full story in the San Francisco Examiner (October 10, 2017)

They Were Really Worried About Creationists and the Oil Companies

New Mexico’s top education official is misleading the public about how his agency crafted a series of controversial changes to the state’s science standards, according to a former state employee who worked on the standards and later quit in protest.

Last month, as Mother Jones first reported, the state’s public education agency released a plan for updating its science education guidelines for grades K-12. The draft language drew heavily on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), which were developed over several years by national science and teaching associations, as well as by an array of other scientists, teachers, professors, engineers, cognitive experts, and business leaders. At least 18 states and the District of Columbia have adopted NGSS to teach science to their students.

But there were some eyebrow-raising differences in New Mexico’s guidelines. The proposed standards deleted language from the NGSS referencing the “4.6-billion-year” history of the Earth, omitted entirely one mention of evolution, and eliminated references to human-caused global warming. In one case, the proposed standards would replace language about the “rise in global temperatures” with a reference to the supposed “fluctuation” in global temperatures. The new standards have not yet gone into effect; they’ll be debated at a public meeting later this month.


Christopher Ruszkowski, the head of New Mexico’s Public Education Department, shot back at critics by saying that his agency’s proposed changes—including those that fly in the face of peer-reviewed science and long-accepted facts—resulted from input by “a bunch of different groups,” among them “business groups, civic groups, teacher groups, superintendents.” He wouldn’t specify who the groups were but said the process that went into writing the controversial proposed standards was “how PED does business.”

But that’s not how it happened, according to Lesley Galyas, a former state employee who was in charge of PED’s efforts to revamp its outdated science standards until late last year, when she resigned. Galyas, who served four years as the math and science bureau chief at the department, said her job in part entailed overseeing teachers’ groups, focus groups, and a math and science advisory committee, all with the aim of bringing New Mexico’s standards in line with the latest research on science and teaching.

PED says it will hold a public hearing on its proposed science standards on October 16 in Santa Fe, the state capital.

Click here to read the full story in Mother Jones (October 6, 2017)

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)