An analysis released last week found that the current academic standards used by Nebraska were not as rigorous as national Common Core Standards despite prior assertions by state lawmakers that "sequencing" was the only real difference between the two. The new report is likely to add fuel to the fire of an already acrimonious fight over whether the state should join others around the country in adopting Common Core or stick to their own standards going forward.
The study was performed by the Mid-content Research for Education and Learning and paid for by the Nebraska Department of Education, Joe Dejka of the World-Herald Bureau reports. Among the differences it details is the earlier introduction of several math concepts in Common Core, as well as the fact that Common Core doesn't stop at Algebra II as the Nebraska standards do.
Those "plus-standards" in the Common Core are designed to prepare high-achieving juniors and seniors on track for careers in science, technology and medicine.
Deb Romanek, director of mathematics for the Nebraska Department of Education, said that while the consultant scored the Common Core higher for rigor, she was not ready to conclude that those standards were better than Nebraska's. "The jury's still out," Romanek said.
The study results, however, will prompt state officials to examine the Nebraska standards at every grade level for ways to improve them, she said.
Although the report authors claim that early introduction of advanced math concepts point to Common Core being more rigorous, Romanek counters that later introduction – like in Nebraska standards – allows the concepts to be tackled in more depth. She added that there's every reason to believe that Nebraska standards do at least as good as job as Common Core in producing students who are both career and college ready, especially in light of the fact that standardized test scores in the state have been going up in the two years since this type of assessment was introduced.
Next month, Nebraska state officials plan to convene professors from the University of Nebraska and state, private and community colleges to ask their opinion of the state's math and language arts standards.
Results of a similar McREL study last month found little difference between Nebraska's and the Common Core's language arts standards.
State officials hope to have a first draft of new language arts standards ready in January, and a math draft in March.
Romanek said the Common Core standards push some algebra and geometry concepts — which Nebraska typically teaches in high school — down into seventh and eighth grades.
That push-down occurs in the elementary grades as well.