PRESS RELEASE - September 5, 2003
New Mexico State Department
of Education

300 Don Gaspar
Santa Fe, NM 87501-2786

Ruth Williams
Public Outreach Director
(505) 476-0393

New Science Standards Receive National, Local Praise

(Santa Fe, NM)--The New Mexico State Board of Education (SBE) on August 28 adopted new science standards that are being called "truly excellent,""clearly among the best in the nation, if not the best" and "an accurate representation of the best science" by leading science organizations and experts through letters of endorsement provided to the New Mexico State Department of Education (SDE) by outside organizations.

Dr. Lawrence S. Lerner, a nationally recognized expert on science education standards who has written three reports on science education standards for the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, states, “These standards are some of the finest I have read in the course of six years of reviewing state science standards. They are clear, scientifically correct, superbly organized and well integrated. All of science – physical, biological and earth – and space science – is presented as a cogent body.

“The standards present a ‘real scientific view’ of the subject matter, in terms appropriate to the various grade levels,” he said. Dr. Lerner is also professor emeritus of physics and astronomy at California State University in Long Beach.

“The SDE has crafted standards in which science content, scientific thinking and methods and societal and personal aspects of science are seamlessly integrated into a coherent whole. In the area of biological evolution, this coherent whole remains perfectly true to science,” said Sharon Dogruel, program manager in the SDE’s Curriculum, Instruction and Learning Technologies (CILT) Unit.

“We wholeheartedly support the adoption of these standards,” said the Coalition for Excellence in Science and Math Education (CESE) of Albuquerque. National Academy of Sciences President Bruce Alberts, in Washington, D.C., said, “I am especially pleased to see the strong and prominent place that teaching and learning about biological and geological evolution has in the latest set of standards.”

The New Mexico Conference of Churches in Albuquerque, including three Roman Catholic Dioceses and Protestant denominations, said, “The science standards are truly excellent and the great majority of New Mexicans, and people of faith, would agree that the committee has achieved a science standard of a very high degree.” The United Methodist Church of Albuquerque said, “These standards achieve the goals of being faithful to the study of science and respectful to different belief systems.”

The National Center for Science Education, Inc. said, “I am particularly pleased that you encourage students in the early years to recognize that science is something that can be understood – and practiced – by all of us…Over the years, we have reviewed many state science standards and found them to vary greatly in their content and quality. New Mexico now ranks among the very best.”

The National Science Teachers Association of Arlington, Virginia, said, “We are pleased that the current draft standards emphasize evolution in a manner that is commensurate with its importance in understanding the natural world. In doing so, New Mexico provides a model for other states to emulate.” It congratulated the SBE for “supporting the process that has resulted in quality state science education standards for students in New Mexico.”

Dr. Richard Reif, the SDE’s new science consultant, said, “The new science standards will do much to promote critical thinking skills and scientific literacy among students in New Mexico schools. The science content is of the highest quality as identified by the established scientific community.”

Dr. Reif joined the SDE in August. He holds advanced degrees in physics and astrophysics from the University of Illinois and University of Colorado and a PhD in science education from the University of New Mexico. Most recently he was associate dean of education at the State University of New York in New Paltz.

The SBE directed staff from the CILT Unit in June 2002 to begin the revision of the existing standards. The SDE researched state and national standards and convened a group of experts, including educators and scientists, who suggested a three-strand framework that included “Scientific Thinking and Practice,” “Content of Science” and “Science and Society.” The writing team worked on the draft for six months.

The SDE held a community review on April 16, 2003 to solicit input on whether essential content and skills were articulated throughout the standards. Based on feedback from this review, a field draft was prepared by staff and distributed statewide to all educators and the public.

“The SDE received extensive public comment and made modifications to the final draft that supported science education and provided opportunities for students to bring diversity of thought to the classroom. This process engaged educators, scientists, university faculty, business partners, representatives from public and private organizations and community members from throughout the state,” Dogruel said.

The Educational Standards Commission, a 19-member commission that advises the SBE on issues relating to accountability and educational standards for New Mexico schools, was briefed on three occasions and reviewed the development of the standards.

“Science is one of the core academic areas essential for student achievement and success. In addition to the standards, there is much on the horizon in the area of science,” Dogruel said. In 2004-2005, the state will implement a criterion-referenced test for science. The SBE will adopt new science textbooks in 2005. As a result, new science materials will be in classrooms in 2006. And by 2005-2006, three units of science will be required for high school graduation.