Coalition for Excellence in Science and Math Education

New Mexico PED Wants to take Science out of Science Standards?!?

When CESE formed in 1997, the NM Board of Education had removed the very word "Evolution" from state science teaching standards. Members of the new organization formed to oppose the flawed standards began to call themselves "Ducks", referring to the manner in which Creationist arguments are like ducks in a shooting gallery: "easy enough to shoot down, but no matter how many times you do it, they pop right back up again." CESE, led by its founder Marshall Berman, and aided by many other science groups, eventually prevailed, and New Mexico's science standards have been exemplary for years.

Now, however, the Public Education Department, which replaced the State Board of Education years ago, has actually proposed several modifications to state standards up for adoption which once again serve to downplay the science behind evolution and global warming. Mother Jones has a detailed informative report, "New Mexico Doesn’t Want Your Kids to Know How Old the Earth Is, Or why it’s getting warmer."

An excerpt:

New Mexico’s public education agency wants to scrub discussions of climate change, rising global temperatures, evolution, and even the age of planet Earth from the standards that shape its schools’ curriculum.

The state’s Public Education Department this week released a new proposed replacement to its statewide science standards. The draft is based on the Next Generation Science Standards, a set of ideas and guidelines released in 2013 that cover kindergarten through 12th grade. The NGSS, which have been adopted by at least 18 states and the District of Columbia, include ample discussion of human-caused climate change and evolution.

But the draft released by New Mexico’s education officials changes the language of a number of NGSS guidelines, downplaying the rise in global temperatures, striking references to human activity as the primary cause of climate change, and cutting one mention of evolution while weakening others. The standards would even remove a reference to the scientifically agreed-upon age of the Earth—nearly 4.6 billion years. (Young Earth creationists use various passages in the Bible to argue that the planet is only a few thousand years old.)

The article points out that “These changes are evidently intended to placate creationists and climate change deniers.

Here are some of the changes which have been proposed. Mention of the billion-year age of the earth has been removed, the very word "evolution" has been replaced by "biological diversity", and global warming is described by the mild euphemism "climate fluctuation".

Look for "Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to obtain input on the proposed repeal of 6.29.10 NMAC, Science, to be replaced by 6.29.10 NMAC, New Mexico Stem-Ready Science Standards." on the PED's Public Notices page.

There will be a Public Hearing on October 16, 2017 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. (MDT). It's time to get our Ducks in a row!


New CESE Officers Announced

Picture shows CESE luncheon at Jessica McCord's house, August 5th 2017

It's official, the new CESE Slate has been approved by the membership!

Here are the CESE officers for 2017-2018:

  • Past President: Jessica McCord
  • President: Jesse Johnson
  • Vice President/President elect: Ken Whiton
  • Treasurer: Steve Brugge
  • Secretary: Dave Thomas
  • Board Members At Large:

    • Rebecca Reiss
    • Lisa Durkin
    • Jack Jekowski
    • Kim Johnson
    • Marilyn Savitt-Kring
    • Cindy Chapman
    • Terry Dunbar

Etscorn Delights Audience; Jekowski gets Award

Frank Etscorn, inventor of the Nicotine Patch

Psychology Professor Frank Etscorn regaled the audience with tales of science, and the importance of determination, at CESE's annual meeting on June 24th, 2017. Professor Etscorn described his multiple attempts to succeed at a career, and the fascinating story of his discovery that absorption of nicotine through the skin could alleviate the desire for a cigarette. Etscorn's initial experiments, which involved 360-degree vomiting, showed the dedication of this adventurous researcher.



Jack Jekowski receiving his award

In other meeting business, long-time CESE board member and education/business wonk Jack Jekowski was honored with a plaque.  The plaque reads: 


Jack, you have been a tireless contributor to CESE since the organization’s earliest days.  Your efforts to help those in New Mexico’s business community understand the complexities and realities of education and the difficulties involved in education reform have positively touched thousands of lives.  Your colleagues in CESE recognize and honor your dedication and initiative, will forever be grateful for the example you have set, and cherish your friendship.


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Etscorn to keynote CESE Annual Meeting on June 24th, 2017

Dr. Etscorn at the Socorro March for Science

Dr. Etscorn giving the commencement speech at New Mexico Tech, May 2017.

CESE’s 20th annual meeting will be on June 24th, 1:30 pm at the UNM Anthropology department lecture hall. Our featured speaker is Dr. Frank Etscorn, the award-winning inventor of the nicotine patch. The critical discoveries that lead to the 1986 patent Transcutaneous Application of Nicotine were made while he was mentoring students as a Professor of Psychology at New Mexico Tech in Socorro. He will discuss a subject very near to our prime mission: Never Give Up on a Student. We think you will be entertained and enlightened by Dr. Etscorn. There will also be a brief business meeting and election of officers.

Saturday, June 24, 2017, 1:30 PM
"Never Give Up on a Student"
The UNM Anthropology Lecture Hall
FREE and open to the public
Directions: From Central and University, go north on University until you get to Las Lomas. Turn right, then right into the parking lot. The lecture will take place in the Anthropology buliding lecture hall, immediately south of the parking lot. Parking is free on Saturdays. We look forward to seeing you there.


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The May 2017 Beacon is HERE!!

CESE is pleased to announce the publication of the latest Beacon, for May 2017. It is the first Beacon done by new editor Becky Reiss. Here are some teasers from President Jessica McCord's introductory article.


The first article, A Vindication of the Criticism of New Mexico Public Education Department’s Teacher, Evaluation System, is an analysis by CESE of a December 2016 peer-reviewed publication that includes a coauthor who is the primary architect of the current teacher evaluation and school grading systems in use today in New Mexico. You will find that this paper’s conclusions do not support the use of the current NM teacher evaluation system.

The next article, How New Mexico’s Teacher Evaluation System Translates to the Classroom, is a personal account of one teacher’s experience with the evaluation system; a journey that will leave you with a better understanding of the effect these policies have on teachers. The results are evocative.

Then, we present one cartoon about NM graduation rates and the cut-off score that students need to achieve to graduate.. There is a long story behind this, but the cartoon has the answer to a question all New Mexicans interested in education should be asking about those graduation rates. Hint – look behind the curtain.

Finally, we are please to announce this year's keynote speaker for our June 24th Annual Meeting, Dr. Frank Etscorn. Dr. Etscorn is the award-winning inventor of the nicotine patch. The critical discoveries that lead to the 1986 patent Transcutaneous Application of Nicotine were made while he was mentoring students as a Professor of Psychology at New Mexico Tech in Socorro. He will discuss a subject very near to our prime mission: "Never Give Up on a Student."

You can catch up on all the CESE Beacons here. It's our 20th anniversary, see what we've been up to for the last couple of decades!

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CESE Board meets President’s Baby


The CESE Board was delighted to meet president Jessica McCord's new baby Ryleigh. Shown above at our February 22nd, 2017 regular board meeting are secretary Dave Thomas, vice-president Jesse Johnson, board members Kim Johnson, Lisa Durkin, treasurer Steve Brugge, Cindy Chapman, Ken Whiton, Becky Reiss, Terry Dunbar, and president Jessica McCord (with Ryleigh).

Thanks to Betty Ann Whiton for a marvelous Bread Pudding!


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Large Crowd hears Lawrence Krauss Speak

UNM's Maxwell Lecture Hall was filled to capacity for Dr. Lawrence M. Krauss's appearance at the CESE Annual Meeting on June 25th, 2016. It was a memorable event. Here follow some photos of the goings-on.

A 275+ crowd is ready to hear Dr. Krauss (front, hat).
Outgoing president Lisa Durkin addresses the crowd. The membership approved the new slate of officers for CESE: President: Jessica McCord; Vice-president/president elect: Jesse Johnson; Secretary: Dave Thomas; and Treasurer: Steve Brugge.
Dr. Krauss discussed several topics in physics and cosmology, including the Cosmic Microwave Background (shown), and the importance of the recent detection of the gravitational waves predicted by Einstein.
A lively question-and-answer period followed the talk.
Dr. Krauss signed dozens of books, and graciously obliged requests for photographs as well.
At a post-meeting gathering at Bruno's, outgoing secretary Marilyn Savitt-Kring (left) received a plaque of appreciation for her many years of service as CESE's secretary. The award was presented by Lisa Durkin; Mark Fraser is on the right.

Lawrence Krauss to speak at 1:30 PM Saturday, June 25th, for the CESE Annual Meeting!

LawrenceKraussMark your calendars for 1:30 PM on Saturday, June 25th. The keynote speaker for CESE's annual meeting, Lawrence Krauss, will be speaking on

Gravity Waves: a Journey to the Beginning of Time.

Location: Maxwell Museum of Anthropology Lecture Hall.

Time: 1:30 PM Saturday, June 25th, 2016.

Free and open to the public!









There will also be a short business meeting and election of CESE's proposed Slate of Officers for 2016-2017:

  • President: Jessica McCord
  • Vice-president: Jesse Johnson
  • Secretary: Dave Thomas
  • Treasurer: Steve Brugge
  • plus the board members-at-large
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New May 2016 Beacon is On-Line!

beacon-splashThat's right, there's another brand-new edition of the CESE Beacon!

The May 2016 Beacon (Vol. XIX, No. 1) is online.

Contents Preview: Editor’s Message – Kim Johnson. – Read a comparison of teaching before and after the No Child Left Behind Act from our president, Lisa Durkin – How did we do on the PARCC exam this year? Some more data to digest -- Toons by Thomas -- In Memoriam: Dr. Marshall Berman -- and Announcing the CESE Annual Meeting with a very special guest speaker, Dr. Lawrence Krauss, the Director of the Arizona State University “Origins Project”.



Teachers are educators, not saviors

Kudos to the Albuquerque Journal for printing CESE president Lisa Durkin's editorial on March 21st, 2016. Here follows Lisa's letter.

Lisa DurkinTeachers are educators, not saviors

By Lisa Durkin / President, Coalition For Excellence In Science Education
Monday, March 21st, 2016 at 12:02am

For decades society has looked to schools for social engineering.

Legislation from IDEA to NCLB requires schools to be the remedy for poverty, apathy and dysfunction. While it is true that a student cannot choose the milieu from which they are born, it is also true that the deficiencies a student arrives with on campus are out of a school’s control.

Teachers can educate any student. That is the profession they have been certified in, and every child can learn. But teachers will always do a poor job of parenting kids, erasing their troubles and bridging economic gaps.

The assumption is that educators are the reason for poor performance in and out of school. Perceptions about teacher incompetence are based on manufactured metrics that are rigged, since they require teachers to make up for insufficiencies born of social, economic and mental strife.

Teachers and administrators are expected to be saviors, and we are failing. Our failure suits a political narrative.

Policy makers, who use educational hot buttons and sound bites to gain election, pitch one reform after another, all of which are based on the assumption that teachers are the problem.

At what point will society realize that pounding schools with accountability measures will always fail as long as it rests on faulty assumptions?

The truth is, society needs to solve its own problems.

Schools can’t fix kids, fix families or fix the economy. Schools can only educate a healthy and willing population.

It is the product of society that educators serve. Schools are merely a reflection, not the creator of society.

Communities that fill schoolhouses with economically advantaged kids from stable homes have always performed better than those tormented by social and economic strife. Statistical analysis yields these results again and again.

No one has the solution to this age-old problem, but many slick programs claim they do. Billions of tax dollars slip down that rabbit hole every year.

Accountability needs to rest on the shoulders of an American population who find it easier to shirk their responsibilities onto the schools.

It’s far easier to blame educators, and expect them to meet impossible requirements, than to hold members of society accountable.

Do schools have areas of concern? Yes, some districts would most certainly fail if they were businesses. Although, it would be prudent to hold them accountable for only that which they have control over.

It’s hard to sift through rhetoric based on agenda-born conclusions. Statistical twisting and pseudo-analysis traps many folks into counterproductive presumptions.

Here is what we know: Schools have been under a constant state of reform since 1958. Results can be attributed to a myriad of factors other than the contribution of educators. It’s time for society to face the fact that they need to look to themselves for economic and social solutions, and leave schools to simply educate.

Lisa Durkin is a science teacher at Valencia High School.