This story is a staff report from The Paper.


According to a report released by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, New Mexico public school’s current social studies standards are mediocre and U.S. history standards are inadequate. Standards, which define what children are expected to learn by the end of a school year, are typically updated about every 10 years. New Mexico hasn’t updated its standards since 2001, a decade late.

“This is the first full review of our social studies standards in 20 years, so it is beyond time for this update,” Public Education Secretary Designate Kurt Steinhaus said. “To keep the curriculum relevant, we regularly review what we’re teaching in every subject and incorporate new developments. In social studies, that includes a fuller understanding of the many cultures that together make New Mexico unique.” 

According to the NMPED, the new social studies standards will align with a court order in the Yazzie/Martinez v. State of New Mexico lawsuit, which requires the state to provide students with an education that is culturally relevant for New Mexico, where 46 percent of the population is Hispanic, 9 percent is Native American and 34 percent of households speak a non-English language at home.

“We already knew that we were late and were working to produce state-of-the-art standards, but the process cannot be rushed,” Steinhaus said of the state’s ratings. “We have a defined process for updating standards in every discipline, and we are following that process to the letter.”

Through a competitive bidding process, the NMPED hired the American Institutes for Research in January to help a citizen committee write the actual standards based on those principles. The department convened committees of statewide stakeholders, including higher education experts in the social studies disciplines, classroom teachers and tribal education directors, to identify areas that needed updating. 

The writers were New Mexico social studies teachers in K-12 schools from across the state who responded to an open call for members of the writing committee.

The standards are now subject to the state’s rule-making process, which requires public notice of the proposed rule change, a minimum 30-day public comment period and a public hearing. The comment period for this rule is 46 days. The public can speak about the proposed standards as well as two other proposed rule changes at a public hearing from 1 to 3pm, Nov. 12 in Mabry Hall in the Jerry Apodaca Education Building, 300 Don Gaspar Ave. in Santa Fe.

Written comments may be submitted until 5pm Friday, Nov. 12 by email to or by regular mail addressed to: John Sena, Policy Division, New Mexico Public Education Department, 300 Don Gaspar Ave., Room 121, Santa Fe, NM 87501.