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Santa Fe board rejects PED’s proposed science standards

SANTA FE — The Santa Fe school board on Tuesday signed off on a letter urging the state Public Education Department to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards in their entirety and without controversial modifications the PED has proposed.

Three weeks ago, the PED unveiled proposed teaching standards that critics say scrub key concepts like evolution, climate change and the age of Earth from the state’s science curriculum.

Tuesday’s letter, approved by a 5-0 vote of the Santa Fe board Tuesday, makes note of these omissions. It will be read into the record by Santa Fe Superintendent Veronica García during a hearing on the proposed changes on Oct. 16.

“Not adopting the NGSS” — science standards proposed by a consortium of 26 states — “in their entirety will deny our children in New Mexico the same educational opportunities afforded students in other states, ultimately leaving them unprepared to compete in a world where science aptitude is needed more than ever in order to be successful,” the school board’s letter states.

The letter also criticizes failure by the PED to publicly disclose the author, source and underlying research upon which the PED based its decision to make modifications and speculates that changes may have been influenced by the oil and gas industry, creationists, and political expediency. “This failure to disclose leaves open for question the authenticity of the proposed replacement,” it says.

The NextGen standards have been accepted by 18 states. In the PED’s proposed changes, a reference to a “rise in global temperatures” is replaced by “fluctuations in temperature,” and “evolution” is replaced by “biological diversity.” The Earth’s “4.6 billion year history” is replaced by “geological history.”

Acting Education Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski has said that changes offer the state an opportunity to update its science curriculum in a way that reflects the state’s “diversity of perspectives.”

Last week, the school board in Los Alamos approved its own resolution urging that NGSS standards with some New Mexico-specific additions be adopted in lieu of those proposed by the PED.

At a previous meeting, the Santa Fe school board also endorsed a “teach-in” next week, a few days before the PED standards hearing. Board member Steven Carrillo said the idea is to present several science lessons to demonstrate to the PED that science matters. The teach-in is scheduled for 3:30 to 5 p.m. on Oct. 13 at the Jerry Apodaca Education Building, 300 Don Gaspar Ave.

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