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Suzey Gao, center, and Ruth Ann Peterson, right, protest the proposed changes to the state’s K-12 social studies standards earlier this month with a small crowd of citizens and lawmakers outside the Public Education Department headquarters in Santa Fe.

Four years ago, proposed educational standards that would have eliminated topics such as evolution and mentions of events involving civil rights icons such as Rosa Parks and Malcolm X were sent to the Legislative Education Study Committee for discussion.

Last week, committee members heard about K-12 social studies standards that would go in the opposite direction, greatly expanding the amount of information students are expected to learn.

“What I see you all doing here four years later is being inclusive,” said committee Vice Chairman and state Rep. Andrés Romero, D-Albuquerque, adding the new standards would move social studies beyond just a “set of events that happened.” The 2017 proposal came from then-Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration.

Lawmakers questioned the Public Education Department at the Wednesday hearing about the contents and implementation of newly proposed K-12 social studies standards for public schools. If implemented, the standards would constitute the first update of its kind since 2009.

Cabinet Deputy Secretary Gwen Perea Warniment said the Public Education Department received more than 2,700 pages of public comment — at least triple the amount of input compared with any other recent rule-adoption process.

But even a lawmaker and educator like Romero, who is enthusiastic about the proposed standards, is worried about their sheer volume.

Educators would need to prepare students for more than 1,000 individual standards under the proposal, policy analysts at the Legislative Education Study Committee recently wrote. In high school, the number of standards would triple from 129 to 387 — and teachers would be expected to accommodate the additional educational requirements in the same amount of learning time.

Perea Warniment said the expansion is a concern at the Public Education Department as the standards-writing team prepares revisions this month.

“A lot of what we’re seeing is that maybe there are elements that don’t belong in overarching standards,” Perea Warniment added.

Standards referencing specific historical events could wind up instead in the curriculum materials the department will recommend to local schools ahead of the 2023-24 implementation year.

Rep. Stefani Lord, R-Sandia Park, criticized the standards’ framing of Spanish colonialism and the history of police violence in the United States at Wednesday’s meeting.

Lord also pressed the department on local control over teaching the new standards.

While the state education department sets the standards, districts receive direct money for instruction materials and have the last say in how standards are reflected in the curriculum and lesson plans.

Meanwhile, Rep. T. Ryan Lane, R-Aztec, said he was concerned the standards would ask teachers to educate kindergartners on how to discuss their own identities.

He added under the standards, U.S. history would be taught without “global perspective” on issues such as voting rights in America.

“We’re imposing a 2021 ethic on our history,” he said. “It’s important to do that, but at the same time I think it’s very helpful for a child to have a comparison with what was going on in the rest of the world during that time.”

Also Wednesday, the Public Education Department presented information about the state’s new accelerated learning plan. The plan is to shift teaching away from remediation and toward grade-level learning, even for students who are behind, starting this school year.

“Grade-level standards should be the floor and not the ceiling,” Perea Warniment said. “For a long time in New Mexico ... we worked to get kids to grade level.”

The shift comes as, according to the Public Education Department, K-12 students saw an 8.4 percent dip in already-low statewide math proficiency among schools that collected the data between 2019 and this fall.

The department is pushing for lawmakers to steer more funding toward teacher salaries, in part to account for the increase in professional development they’d need to execute the accelerated learning model.

Initial analyses from the department estimate boosting wages 5 percent across the board and raising starting salaries in the state’s three-tiered teaching system could cost roughly $140 million to $150 million.

The Legislative Education Study Committee also heard a presentation from Samantha Waidler-Jaramillo, who teaches at Dixon Elementary School in the Española Public School District.

With the legislative session nearing, she said lawmakers should consider teachers’ pay and the advancement opportunities available to teachers through the current three-tiered salary system, which she said are limited. She also noted the high number of new initiatives set by the Public Education Department this year.

“This pandemic is still impacting teaching and learning,” she said. “This should be a time to re-evaluate our educational system, not to push teachers to their breaking points in order to pretend that nothing happened.”

On Thursday, lawmakers on the Legislative Education Study Committee discussed possible endorsements of legislation ahead of the 2022 session, covering issues such as teacher pay and insurance costs for educators.

“This is a time when we ought to ask for what we want,” said Rep. Susan Herrera, D-Embudo, in calling for a $15 minimum wage for all public school staff. “I think as a committee we should ask for everything we want right now.”

(9) comments

mark Coble

New Mexico will continue to lower standards for education and hiring. We've been doing it for years....to predictable results. See your local bureaucrats....everywhere.

Joseph Tafoya

It's all about politics and a narrative. Politics of the progressive left, and a narrative that America is bad. What we have here is a progressive theory. If we indoctrinate all the children, into the belief that America was built on the backs of slaves, the murder of the American Indians, and so on. We will have generations of progressives that will eventually do away with our constitution and install a system where government and not the people are the final authority. Socialism. This is their final solution.

Ralph Myers

The smartest thing the legislature could do to improve the public schools right now is to mandate and fully fund a minimum daily wage of at least $150 a day for substitute teachers, as well as mandate a second school employee present on every school bus to maintain order while the driver actually drives. You'll stop losing teachers and school bus drivers, and at least show some concern for the day to day operations of public schools.

Joseph Tafoya

For decades our politicians have tried to rescue our degrading education system by throwing more dollars at the problem. So far, it has not worked, but yet they continue to propose to do it all over again. There is a definition of insanity that is commonly implied and it may apply here.

Francisco Carbajal

The New Mexico PED who is responsible for the implementation of the Social Studies Programs across all 89 plus school district should speed-up their subject matter expertise on the matter immediately. Here in New Mexico, the indigenous history of the past has always been ignored and twisted by outsider's (foreigner's) who have no clue on what we are about. And even if they researched and studied the various cultures of New Mexico, they would still get it twisted with their own interpretation and claim it as being fact and truth. Wrong Answer! Lastly, who is this Interim Legislative Education Committee anyways? If they are supposed to represent the various New Mexican cultures and their historical perspective, then, where have they been in the last generation advocating for a non-bias Social Studies Curriculum for our students to embrace in a positive outcome from an academic grade level within the NM public school system? Remember, the U.S. History academic world nowadays think there are is only one U.S. History perspective for this nation and the U.S. English Movement is part of the problem. So, I say to the PED in NM, fix it now and do it right from the get-go! Where is the culturally competent New Mexico Social Studies Teacher's input on this one?

Chris Mechels

They should use Sheldon Wolin's "Democracy, Inc) as a textbook, so they'd understand the way our political system really works. Inverted Totalitarianism

david cartwright

Why does the thought of "standards" imposed by state bureaucrats and politicians (who typically no nothing of history) scare me? I think I have answered my own question.

Mike Johnson

[thumbup]Indeed, and of course the probability this will be all about partisan politics should scare any intelligent parent.

Mike Johnson

And in addition, the person who is in charge of this, as the committee vice-chair, should absolutely terrify any sane and intelligent person.

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