Coalition for Excellence in Science and Math Education

New Slate Elected at CESE 2015 Annual Meeting

Lisa Durkin

Lisa Durkin

A new slate of officers for the year 2015-2016 was nominated and elected at CESE's Annual Meeting (June 27th, 2015). Leading CESE for the next year is new president Lisa Durkin.



Jessica McCord

The vice-president/ president- elect for this year is Jessica McCord. Steve Brügge will continue as treasurer, and Marilyn Savitt-Kring is staying on as secretary. Other CESE board members are Marshall Berman, Cindy Chapman, Terry Dunbar, Patty Finley, Jack Jekowski, Jesse Johnson, Kim Johnson, Becky Reiss, Dave Thomas, and Ken Whiton. Jerry Shelton asked to change his status to board member emeritus, which gives him all privileges except voting rights.

CESE thanks outgoing president Patty Finley for a fine year of service at the helm.

Jerry and Nancy Shelton

Jerry and Nancy Shelton were honored with plaques commemorating their years of service to CESE.

At the meeting, which was held at the home of Buzz and Patty Finley, long-time CESE supporters Jerry and Nancy Shelton were given plaques honoring their years of service with CESE.






Earlier in June, CESE treasurer Steve Brügge was also given a CESE plaque on the occasion of his retirement from teaching.

In addition to the certificate below, Steve also got a copy adorned with salutory comments on his teaching, from an online Albuquerque Journal story.

Steve Brügge's award

Steve Brügge's award


Jack Jekowski (left) and Kim Johnson (middle) present a CESE award to treasurer Steve Brügge

Jack Jekowski (left) and Kim Johnson (middle) present a CESE award to treasurer Steve Brügge






CESE and NMSR are Sponsoring a lecture by Dr. Michael Shermer

moral-arcThe Coalition for Excellence in Science and Math Education  (CESE) and New Mexicans for Science and Reason (NMSR) are pleased to sponsor a lecture by Dr. Michael Shermer on Saturday, February 21st, 2015, 1:30PM, at the First Unitarian Church, 3701 Carlisle Boulevard Northeast, Albuquerque, NM 87110.

Dr. Shermer will be signing copies of his new book, "The Moral Arc of Science - How Science Has Bent the Arc of the Moral Universe Toward Truth, Justice, Freedom, & Prosperity."

The arc of the moral universe bends toward truth, justice, freedom, and prosperity thanks to science-the type of thinking that involves reason, rationality, empiricism, and skepticism. The Scientific Revolution led by Copernicus, Galileo, and Newton was so world-changing that thinkers in other fields consciously aimed at revolutionizing the social, political, and economic worlds using the same methods of science. This led to the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment, which in turn created the modern secular world of democracies, rights, justice, and liberty.



About the Speaker
Dr. Michael Shermer is the Founding Publisher of Skeptic magazine and editor of, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, and an Adjunct Professor at Claremont Graduate University and Chapman University. Dr. Shermer's latest book is The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies-How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths. His last book was The Mind of the Market, on evolutionary economics. He also wrote Why Darwin Matters: Evolution and the Case Against Intelligent Design, and he is the author of The Science of Good and Evil and of Why People Believe Weird Things. Dr. Shermer received his B.A. in psychology from Pepperdine University, M.A. in experimental psychology from California State University, Fullerton, and his Ph.D. in the history of science from Claremont Graduate University (1991). He was a college professor for 20 years, and since his creation of Skeptic magazine he has appeared on such shows as The Colbert Report, 20/20, Dateline, Charlie Rose, and Larry King Live (but, proudly, never Jerry Springer!). Dr. Shermer was the co-host and co-producer of the 13-hour Family Channel television series, Exploring the Unknown.


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Use caution with teacher evals

My beautiful pictureKudos once again to CESE Past President Ken Whiton for another stirring editorial in the January 29, 2015 issue of the Albuquerque Journal (link). Ken's latest op-ed is titled "Use caution with teacher evals."

Here follows Ken's letter.  Well said once again, Ken!

As it has with many other aspects of modern life, our federal government has increasingly interfered in individual states’ education policies, usually with disastrous results.

Now, under President Obama’s “Race to the Top,” the U.S. Department of Education is requiring New Mexico’s Public Education Department to use a Value Added Model, or VAM, based on student growth when evaluating teachers.

Supposedly, this method measures the contribution of a teacher to a child’s learning, which makes sense until you consult experts in the field.

The American Statistical Association has found the VAM to be unreliable, at best. Research conducted by another group contracted by the U.S. Department of Education found that one in four teachers who are actually average in performance will be erroneously identified for rewards or punishments by VAMs.

Our children and their teachers deserve better than an evaluation regime based on this level of error, especially when a “poor” evaluation can destroy a qualified teacher’s career.

Unfortunately, Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera has chosen to base 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation on these same unreliable VAM scores, which is the maximum allowed by the U.S. Department of Education. And yet, she has already lowered Santa Fe’s VAM percentage to 35 percent. Why isn’t she treating all our school districts equally?

If the method Skandera is supposed to use is as bad as the American Statistical Association says it is – and who would know better? – why use the maximum amount of an unreliable method to evaluate teachers? Shouldn’t we want to make the best of a bad situation by using the smallest percentage possible, rather than the largest?

My second point: The U.S. Department of Education is also now allowing states more time to make the required changes in their public education systems. The goal is to avoid problems, to make certain reform is done correctly and to ensure teachers are evaluated accurately.

Skandera should take the same care and consideration and do what our most qualified educators across our state are asking: Give us more time.

If other states can negotiate with the U.S. Department of Education, why can’t New Mexico?

We must comply with “Race to the Top.” But when its requirements are making a quality education for all our children harder to provide, we should be looking for ways to lighten that load.

Skandera should reduce the effect of the thoroughly discredited VAM on teacher evaluations for the entire state to the amount already set for Santa Fe schools. And, give our students and educators the extra time the U.S. Department of Education is allowing for states to implement these large changes.

Let’s take the time to get it right, for our children’s sake!


2014 Annual Meeting Minutes are Posted!

Click here to read the minutes of the 2014 Annual Meeting (June 7th). Comments from out-going president Terry Dunbar, and from in-coming president Patty Finley; election of slate for 2013-2014; presentation of award, general discussion.


 Want more Annual Meeting Minutes? Click here!


Does a Brutal Winter mean ‘So Much for Global Warming?

days-below-0-fNow that we're leaving the winter of 2013-2014 behind, we've probably heard several comments to the effect "With all this snow back east, so much for Global Warming, huh?"

However, this season's bizarre ups-and-downs are more of a symptom of climate change than a disproof of the same. Yes, there can still be heavy storms - a warmer climate means more moisture, and the potential for more snow at times.

The fact is, there used to be more frequent snow-storms before the late 20th century.  A recent XKCD cartoon called "Cold" makes this point very well. The cartoon shows that the frequency of days below 0 degrees F in St. Louis, Mo. has fallen off as global warming continues.

A few months back, CESE's Kim Johnson and Dave Thomas were guests on the 94 Rock Morning Show, and discussed various topics related to climate and warming. As  prep for the show, Dave downloaded 80 years of climate data for the Albuquerque International Sunport, and plotted a chart similar to XKCD's for St. Louis. The same trend exists in Albuquerque - frigid days (below 0 deg. Fahrenheit) used to happen two or three times a decade before 1990, but only one such day has occurred since 1990 - and that was the infamous Groundhog Day Blizzard, which paralyzed much of the nation for a couple of days in February 2011.  If you were in Albuquerque in the winter of 1970-71, you probably remember the severe cold snap of 17 deg. below zero. It's on the chart!

Groundhog day Blizzard in Peralta, NM, February 2011

The Groundhod Day Blizzard of 2011, as seen by Dave Thomas at his home in Peralta, NM.

You can listen to Kim and Dave on 94 Rock at these links:


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Be Friends with CESE on Facebook!


CESE now has a new Facebook Page. Check it out, and be sure to Like the page, and Share it with your friends!

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2013 Annual Meeting Minutes are Posted!

Click here to read the 2013 Annual Meeting (June 29).  Comments from out-going president Ken Whiton, and from in-coming president Terry Dunbar; election of slate for 2013-2014; keynote speaker Zack Kopplin, on "Why we need a Second Giant Leap."

My beautiful picture

Zack Kopplin addresses the CESE 2013 Annual Meeting.

 Want more Annual Meeting Minutes? Click here!


New Mexico, Brace for a Zack Attack!

It's just a few days until our 2013 Annual Meeting! We hope you will join us to hear young dynamo Zack Kopplin, who will be speaking on the topic "Why we need a Second Giant Leap."

zack-hardballThe Time: Saturday, June 29th, 1:00 PM.

The Place: the main lecture hall at Northrop Hall, Room 122, on the University of New Mexico campus.

Zack has led a vigorous opposition to that state's anti-science legislation, the so-called “Louisiana Science Education Act,” which was introduced by Governor Bobby Jindal. He has appeared on numerous television and radio shows. You can be sure he'll have some interesting things to say Saturday.

Click here for a map to Northrop Hall, and here for a one-page flyer to post on bulletin boards and such.

Bring a friend!


Zack Kopplin to be Keynote Speaker for Annual Meeting

CESE is pleased to announce that our keynote speaker for this year's Annual Meeting (to be held on Saturday, June 29th, 1:00-4:30 in Albuquerque, New Mexico) will be none other than Louisiana activist Zack Kopplin. Kopplin has led a vigorous opposition to that state's anti-science legislation, the so-called "Louisiana Science Education Act."

Read Zack's March 22nd 2013 op-ed in the Guardian (UK) here. Stay tuned to the CESE website for details of the annual meeting are finalized; click here for descriptions of previous annual meetings.

Also, read some of Zack's work at the "Creeping Creationist Vouchers" website.

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CESE Webmaster Goes on Speaking Tour

It's the Spring Break 2013 Climate Change Speaking Tour!

It's Spring Break at New Mexico Tech, and CESE webmaster Dave Thomas is taking a road trip to give a series of talks on the topics of science, pseudoscience, climate change and global warming denial. Here is the schedule. There is a small fee for the Lifelong Learning classes.


  • LifeLong Learning for New Mexicans: Science, Pseudoscience and the Battle over Global Warming
    Instructor: David Thomas, $14/2 sessions; Monday, March 11 & 18, 10 am – 12N;
    Faith Lutheran Church, 10000 Spain Road, NE, Albuquerque, NM
    The first of these two lectures will examine what makes science unique among human endeavors. While political, religious and legal arguments all involve making one's case by cherry-picking facts,science proceeds by cherry- picking those hypotheses that best explain all facts. We will consider the role of scientific consensus and peer review, Cargo Cult science, cognitive illusions and more. At the second meeting, we will consider how these concepts apply to climate change and global warming. Why is carbon dioxide more worrisome than other greenhouse gases? How can we tell man-made warming from natural climate change? Has the "Climategate" scandal really disproved global warming? Has science found human-caused global warming to be real, or do we need more data?
  • New Mexico Chapter of the Air and Waste Management Association (AWMA), March 12, 2013
    Dave Thomas on "Climate Change: Just Nature, or are Humans the Problem?" The AWMA March meeting will be in the Banquet Room at the Golden Corral Buffet and Grill, (10415 Central Avenue NE, northeast corner at Eubank) in Albuquerque on Tuesday, March 12, 2013, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Dave, a New Mexico physicist and teacher, will talk about how can we tell man-made warming from natural climate change, why carbon dioxide is more worrisome than other greenhouse gases, whether the "Climategate" scandal really disproved global warming, if more data are still needed to decide, and more.
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