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New social studies standards being developed for kindergarten through 12th grade will include a focus on age-appropriate economics and financial literacy, as well as a more accurate representation of complex historical events in New Mexico, state education officials said Wednesday.
They will take into account the need for children from all New Mexico communities “to see themselves reflected culturally and linguistically,” said Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus.
“These standards will be implemented at the local level with local decision-making,” he said.
School districts and schools will be designing their own professional development or utilizing professional development provided from PED, he said, adding it will include local selection of instructional materials, and input about the design and control of how the standards will be implemented in each classroom.
The development and revision process has been ongoing for 17 months, prompting Steinhaus and other PED administrators to hold the online news conference Wednesday to provide a status report.
Social studies standards generally are updated about every 10 years, and the last revision was in 2009, but that was not a major revision, Steinhaus said. “What we’re announcing today is a major revision.”
Ultimately, the new standards incorporate changes based on feedback received during a 45-day public comment period that began last September, including 2,900 pages of written feedback and more than five hours of oral comments given during a public hearing in November.
Districts will begin local adoption of the new standards this summer, followed by phased in implementation throughout all of next school year into the fall of 2023, when full classroom implementation is expected, said Deputy PED Secretary Gwen Perea Warniment.
That timeline “gives everyone an entire year to do some professional development, some work to unpack the standards,” and for educators “to really understand what they need at the local level,” she said.
An important component in the revision is the selection of instructional materials, including textbooks and curriculum presented to students, said Warniment.
PED is now asking educators statewide to be part of an instructional materials review team, out of which the PED will create a recommendation list.
“The list is provided as a resource for them, but the districts are not obligated to actually use that list,” Warniment said. “We provide it as strong guidance in terms of the work that is involved in identifying high quality instruction materials and why that’s so important.”
The instructional material review is also a good way for educators “to look at the actual process that vendors go through in writing instruction materials, and the research around why curriculum plays such an important role in providing connection among grade levels,” as well as the conceptual flow and design of instructional materials, Warniment said.
Steinhaus noted that some members of the public have previously voiced concern that the new social studies curriculum would include the teaching of critical race theory, which examines American history, society, government and powerful institutions from a race-based perspective.
The Republican Party of New Mexico last September issued a written statement urging school boards and the public to oppose the proposed curriculum, maintaining it contains “critical race theory teaching and a bias toward progressive/liberal themes.”
Steinhaus emphasized that critical race theory “is not a part of instruction in schools today, not a part of the standards that are being adopted, and not a part of instruction in the future.”
The standards do, however, afford “opportunities for discussion about race” and “analyzing issues related to race relations.”
Added Warniment: “What is in the standards is historical accuracy,” as well as the “diversity of representation and the impact of historical events on all of the people in New Mexico, and their perspectives.”