The Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education and Superintendent Raquel Reedy are speaking out against controversial science curriculum proposed by the New Mexico Public Education Department.
On Tuesday, the board’s policy committee voted 5-1 to send PED a letter that criticizes the proposal to exclude references to evolution, rising global temperatures and the age of Earth from state science standards.
Board member Peggy Muller-Aragón cast the lone vote against the letter, and supported PED’s push to make the controversial edits to the Next Generation Science Standards, a curriculum created by a consortium of 26 states in 2013.
Under PED’s plan, a reference to Earth’s “4.6 billion year history” was replaced with “geologic history” in the middle school curriculum. The proposal also omits a reference to a “rise in global temperatures” and replaces it with “fluctuations” in temperature.
“I have looked and thought these look good to me because they kind of leave things a little bit open for the other side,” Muller-Aragón said.
She added that she didn’t want to demean anyone whose spiritual or religious beliefs align with PED’s curriculum changes.
Muller-Aragón said APS should not be adversarial over the proposed standards, and instead should “focus on what is positive” in them.
The rest of the board was uniformly critical.
“We don’t need Scopes trials going on,” said board member Barbara Petersen, referencing the landmark 1925 court case on teaching human evolution in public schools.
Petersen, a former teacher, said educators sometimes face resistance to lessons on evolution and other topics from parents. The board’s letter will show teachers that they have support to “teach real science,” Petersen said.
Board member Lorenzo Garcia said he is also behind the letter, but questioned whether PED will listen to different points of view.
“I am skeptical,” he said, adding that he feels the district’s input has been ignored in the past.
To Garcia, PED’s plan undermines the scientific method.
Reedy shared her own letter to PED on Tuesday. It highlights possible economic impacts if national businesses don’t move to New Mexico because they believe the state’s workforce is not well educated.
Technological driven jobs “demand that students be prepared for scientific fields and the standards must reflect that demand for our graduates,” Reedy’s letter states.
PED chief Christopher Ruszkowski told the Journal that he is open to feedback, and the proposed changes are not set in stone.
“I think it is incumbent on us to have a very hard look at all the feedback that comes in — both in terms of the standards themselves and in terms of the roll-out and the implementation and the resources and the partnership” he said.