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Decision on science standards applauded

Sen. Mimi Stewart

SANTA FE – Lawmakers, educators and scientists on Thursday cheered the previous day’s announcement by Education Secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski that New Mexico will adopt the Next Generation Science Standards as written, with the addition of six state-specific standards.

But educators warned members of a legislative committee that the state faces and long and costly process of implementing the standards that will include paying for new instructional materials and teacher training. The state Public Education Department will issue a request for proposals for new science materials later this year.

State Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, chairwoman of the Legislative Education Study Committee, applauded “the huge outcry from the science and business community” for demanding the state adopt the NGSS standards as written. The PED had proposed eliminating the word “evolution,” for example, and the age of Earth.

“I am so proud of the public,” Stewart told about 40 scientists and educators who attended the committee meeting. “You have come out in a way I’ve never seen before. It seems to me that because of this loud public voice, I think we will be pretty happy with what we end up with.” Stewart and others said they were disappointed that Ruszkowski declined an invitation to speak to the committee Thursday.

The NGSS, issued in 2013 by a consortium of states and science groups, has been adopted as written by 18 states and the District of Columbia. The New Mexico Public Education Department issued a set of standards last month based on the NGSS, but with 35 added standards, one omitted standard and several changes, prompting a public outcry.

Hundreds of scientists, educators and faith leaders turned out at an Oct. 16 public hearing to urge PED to adopt the NGSS as written.

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Gwen Warniment, K-12 program director for the Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation, called Ruszkowski’s decision to adopt NGSS good news for the state.

“We were all surprised and taken aback by the announcement (Monday) night,” she told lawmakers. Warniment said she and other science and education leaders had a role in drafting the six state-specific standards, and that she had no objection to them.

She and others told lawmakers that the state’s purchase of instructional materials aligned to the NGSS will require more funding than the state has appropriated for textbooks in recent years and that still larger sums will be needed to train teachers to comply with the new standards. State spending on instructional materials peaked in 2009 at $39 million but plummeted during the recession, to just $20.6 million this year, requiring districts to “band-aid” textbook purchases, said Stan Rounds, executive director of the New Mexico Coalition of Educational Leaders.


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