Lawmakers discuss common core standards for Nebraska schools

Feb 26, 2013

LINCOLN – The State Board of Education could adopt new nationwide curriculum standards for Nebraska’s public schools under a bill introduced by Sen. Jim Scheer of Norfolk.

The Legislature’s Education Committee heard testimony Feb. 25 on LB 517, a bill that would allow but not require the Board of Education to adopt the Common Core State Standards. Under current statute, the Legislature would have to vote on whether to adopt the standards.

Nebraska is one of only four states that have not adopted the common core standards, along with Texas, Virginia and Alaska. The standards were drafted by the bipartisan education think tank Achieve Inc., which was founded in 1996 by the National Governor’s Association. Their purpose is to create uniform educational standards that do not vary from state to state.       

Common core standards in mathematics and English were released in 2010 with science and social studies expected in the coming years. The Obama administration has made federal education funds to states contingent on adoption of the standards.

Scheer said Nebraska decided not to join the common core initiative when it was proposed in 2009 because the standards were still being written at the time and the assessments that would measure their success would not be available until 2015.         

“If we had adopted them in 2009, we would have no assessments,” Scheer said.  

The State Board of Education reviews and updates curriculum standards every five years, but Scheer said there is currently no mechanism in place to update the common core standards.

Nebraska Commissioner of Education Roger Breed testified in support of the bill. “We have yet to find a set of standards not in need of revision,” Breed said. He said the bill would give the board the flexibility to merge the common core standards and the state standards, utilizing the best aspects of both.

Sen. Ken Haar of Malcolm expressed concern that the focus on standards and assessments creates a “teach to the test” classroom culture, in which core subjects like math and reading are emphasized to the exclusion of extra-curriculars like art and physical education.

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