New Mexico Officials Back Down, Abandon Effort to Politicize Science Education Standards

The state tried to remove global warming, evolution, and the age of the Earth from its curriculum.

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The controversy over an attempt by New Mexico’s education agency to scrub evolution, global warming, and even the age of the Earth from the state’s new science standards appears to have reached its end.

The state’s Public Education Department on Wednesday evening announced that it would instead adopt the nationally respected Next Generation Science Standards in full—without the previously proposed changes. Mother Jones first revealed the controversial proposed changes in September.

Wednesday’s reversal was a major win for science teachers, curriculum experts, and outside advocates, who had angrily protested the education agency’s attempts to politicize the state’s curriculum. “We heard, we responded,” the agency tweeted Thursday.

Here’s more from the Albuquerque Journal:

The science standards outlined by Education Secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski on Wednesday contain none of the omissions or changes to the Next Generation Science Standards proposed last month by the agency. Those proposed changes prompted an outcry from scientists and educators.

His decision Wednesday comes after his announcement last week that he would reinstate the original wording regarding evolution, the rise in global temperatures and the 4.6 billion-year age of Earth—the three revisions that had generated the most outcry.

Ruszkowski said Wednesday the public debate about the proposed standards had become a distraction from the vital work of implementing standards that will “raise the bar” and improve student outcomes in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM.

“I feel this issue is dragging the public away from tangible, meaningful outcomes,” he said in a phone conference with the Albuquerque Journal late Wednesday.

Glenn Branch, the deputy director of the National Center for Science Education, says there remain several unanswered questions about the specifics of New Mexico’s adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards. But broadly speaking, the agency’s latest announcement was seen as cause for celebration. “It’s certainly very encouraging,” Branch says.

Other education experts voiced their support of the agency’s decision to change course. “We thank the secretary for listening to all the public comments,” Ellen Loehman, a spokeswoman for the New Mexico Science Teachers Association, told the Albuquerque Journal. “We are pleased and looking forward to a good working relationship.”