The League of Women Voters of New Mexico opposes the proposed NM STEM-Ready Science Standards and endorses the adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and the appropriation of funding necessary for successful implementation. Before school districts and charter schools and students are evaluated on any new standards, teachers must be trained and appropriate curriculum must be purchased. Justification for our comments is based on our positions and standard expectations of responsible governmental decision-making and follow-through. The NM STEM-Ready Science Standards are inadequate, and we call upon the Public Education Department (PED) to act transparently, accountably, rationally, and responsibly.
Allowing the PED to propose NM STEM-Ready Science Standards instead of NGSS disrespects the professional expertise of the Math and Science Advisory Council, the Legislature’s actions, and the science leaders who collaborated for years on the development of the NGSS. NGSS meets the needs of NM; the proposed standards do not.
Background information on the adoption of NGSS is at the end of this document.
In 2015, the PED’s Math and Science Advisory Council (MSAC) unanimously recommended full adoption of the NGSS without change. In 2017, on a bipartisan basis the NM Legislature passed House Bill 211 requiring the PED to adopt the NGSS. Governor Martinez vetoed that bill. Her veto message implied that the PED had been working on the NGSS and said only that standards and benchmarks do not belong in statute.
The PED has not only disregarded the unanimous decision of the MSAC and the legislative action, it has refused to disclose the parties who altered the NGSS so dramatically that they are no longer recognizable or adequate. Where are the meeting minutes and written justifications for overturning the MSAC recommendations and legislative mandate? Who was involved and why were changes made without consulting the experts who served on the MSAC?
As a governmental agency, the PED is required to follow the Open Meetings Act and keep public records. The PED should use its website as a repository of information that is likely to be needed by the public, including but not limited to meeting attendees, agendas, contents of meeting packets, and minutes. Transparency and public participation in decision-making must be part of the process at all levels of government.
The proposed standards omit and change NGSS’s language related to accepted science regarding evolution, the earth’s age, and climate change. The scientific evidence is clear that our climate is changing and that human activities resulting in the emission of CO2 and other greenhouse gases are significant factors in the heating of the planet. The League believes that government should promote greater energy efficiency and educate the public about ways to reduce carbon footprints. Schools are the most effective vehicle for educating the public.
Unlike the proposed NM STEM Standards, the NGSS include important science concepts—not just performance standards. The NGSS have a scope and sequence that build a deep understanding of science, which is required in jobs today and in the future. A deep understanding fosters the creativity and entrepreneurship seen in countries with the most advanced economies. Performance standards are not enough.
The PED needs to develop an implementation plan for introducing any new standards and must acquire adequate funding from the Legislature for professional teacher training and support, curriculum, and assessment, but it would not have to start from scratch if it used the NGSS. NM would incur tremendous costs if it were to implement the NM STEM Standards, estimated by the Legislative Education Study Committee at $31 million or more.**
The NGSS are free and are already being used in 18 states. Teachers across the nation are excited about developing and sharing curriculum with their colleagues, and much is available as open source to supplement new textbooks that will be necessary to purchase. In contrast, NM STEM Standards would require customized textbooks.
School districts and charter schools should not bear the costs for implementing any new standards. Unfunded mandates are unfair and further exacerbate the fiscal strains placed on the schools.
The NGSS are aligned with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which New Mexico has adopted. The NGSS reinforce the English Language Arts and Mathematics concepts of the Common Core. What happened to the reasoning and the oft-stated goal of giving NM’s students a world-class education that will make them successful in college and careers? What happened to the goal of having a well-educated workforce to attract high-tech industry to NM and build our economy?
The League urges the PED to adopt the NGSS in full to develop the critical thinking and problem-solving skills of students and their understanding of the need to manage resources for the benefit of both present and future generations. By adopting the NGSS, which were developed over years by writing and review teams made up of science teachers, state science, and policy staff, higher education faculty, scientists, engineers, cognitive scientists, and business leaders, NM would move forward. Doing otherwise would set more students and more schools up for failure and diminish NM’s prospects for economic progress.
Background: The Next Generation Science Standards were developed by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Science Teachers Association, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Achieve.
The 2017 NM Legislature passed HB 211: Official Bill Summary “ACT RELATING TO PUBLIC EDUCATION; REQUIRING THE PUBLIC EDUCATION DEPARTMENT TO ADOPT AND IMPLEMENT THE NEXT GENERATION SCIENCE STANDARDS; REQUIRING THE MATHEMATICS AND SCIENCE ADVISORY COUNCIL TO MAKE RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE PUBLIC EDUCATION DEPARTMENT'S IMPLEMENTATION OF THE STANDARDS; REQUIRING REPORTING.”
**LESC Rulemaking Report: New Mexico STEM-Ready Science Standards, September 27, 2017.
Respectfully submitted by
Judith Williams, Ph.D, President, League of Women Voters of New Mexico
Meredith R. Machen, Ph.D., LWVNM Education Chair