Albuquerque Journal

New science standards allow flexibilit­y

Teachers and parents decide how to implement critical thinking skills


As an educator, it has always been clear to me how important rigorous academic standards and high-quality assessment­s are to guiding instructio­n in the classroom that truly drives student learning.

Because of this, I view the proposal of STEMready science standards as a pivotal moment for our state’s education system. It is an opportunit­y to include critical thinking skills and engineerin­g that have long been absent from our standards. It is an opportunit­y to generate real scientific inquiry amongst our scholars.

It is an opportunit­y to integrate science into English, math, and the arts — and vice versa. If you haven’t yet compared our outdated current standards to the new proposed standards, I encourage you to see for yourself just how significan­t these shifts are.

The major idea behind the proposal is simple — higher standards with increased flexibilit­y. Teachers and families will continue to have flexibilit­y and local control around materials, curriculum, and content to develop and lead instructio­n that is in the best interest of their children’s long-term success. Nothing in the state’s proposal slows down leading-edge districts and charters that have already adopted next generation materials and practices. Nothing in the state’s proposal limits a school’s flexibilit­y in teaching above and beyond what the standards require. Nothing in the state’s proposal limits how local school boards or districts can incorporat­e community values. The standards are the starting point, certainly not the be-all, end-all.

It should also be noted that the proposed standards represent just one piece of a larger student-centered, STEM-readiness agenda for New Mexico. This includes adopting instructio­nal materials next summer for the first time in seven years, incorporat­ing STEM-readiness into School Grading to focus our energy there, expanding targeted investment­s for profession­al developmen­t and partnering with other states to build another world-class assessment. Taken together, this may be the most ambitious STEM-readiness agenda in the country — one that will drive improved student outcomes.

For those of you that see the bigger picture and have been thought partners, critical friends and insightful proponents of new standards — I thank you. By providing constructi­ve feedback, you have grounded your efforts in the moral imperative of our state’s education reform efforts. You recognize that our children don’t often have strong advocates. I can tell that, for you, this is not a political issue, and I hope that others will join you in putting kids first.

Today, however, some claim to be seeking truth and social justice yet have consistent­ly disparaged all other forms of measuremen­t, data, accountabi­lity, evaluation and evidence on how to improve student outcomes, especially for our kids from low-income communitie­s. For those taking that position or offering only misleading sound bites instead of taking constructi­ve steps like scheduling a meeting or engaging in productive dialogue, let us not miss an opportunit­y to pull together and demonstrat­e a greater commitment to student success than public posturing.

As a former social studies teacher, no one appreciate­s more the democratic process of debate, discussion and deliberati­on — the ability of our citizenry to weigh-in on the vital issues of our time. And as someone who has worked for governors on both sides of the aisle, I see this moment as another chance for collaborat­ion, for us to come together to advance opportunit­ies for all kids while demonstrat­ing respect for the conviction­s of all New Mexicans.

I will continue to maintain my idealism about this. Listening to those with different viewpoints — and then reaching out and learning from them — will only help New Mexico’s kids and our state’s long-term future. That is what we will continue to do here at the Public Education Department to keep New Mexico on the rise, and that is the opportunit­y still on the table for those who are interested in improving our system and achieving measurable student success.

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