The 912 Project-Nebraska Message Board › The Nebraska Department of Education Is Building on the Wrong Foundation

The Nebraska Department of Education Is Building on the Wrong Foundation

Darlene E.
user 14539080
Omaha, NE
Post #: 409
The NDE Is Building on the Wrong Foundation

by Henry W. Burke


The Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) is basing its new proposed 2014 standards on the flawed 2009 standards. Thus, the NDE is building the new standards on the wrong foundation!

Foundations for Construction

Good builders (and many owners) know the importance of building a structure on a good foundation. If the foundation of the structure is weak or is built in the wrong location, it will crumble and have a very short life. Instead of lasting for many years, the structure will have a very short life; and the owner will be very dissatisfied with the designer and builder.

For instance, what would happen if a building were constructed in the wrong location? This occurred at the new Federal Courthouse in Omaha , Nebraska . After the concrete footings for this new building were constructed, outside surveyors determined that the footings were built in the wrong location (public space encroachment). The contractor had no choice; the footings had to be torn out and rebuilt in the correct place (at considerable expense).

Foundations for Education Standards

Whether it is a physical structure or a standards document, the foundation is very important. If the foundation is wrong, everything that is built upon it is doomed to failure.

Education standards play a central role in providing tangible goals for the schools. The school districts and teachers need a framework that is well-planned and clear. With good knowledge-based standards, students will receive a high-quality education; test scores will improve, and graduation rates will increase.

Anticipated Nebraska Actions

The Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) is in the process of revising the education standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics. To comply with the legally prescribed schedule of revising and updating the standards every five years, the standards for English and Math must be revised in 2014 (this year).

Instead of basing the proposed 2014 standards on a classical Type #1 educational philosophy, the Nebraska Department of Education is utilizing the flawed 2009 Type #2 standards as the base. Just as building a courthouse on a flawed foundation, with those 2009 standards as the foundation, no amount of revisions will make them right. NDE needs to start with an exemplary set of standards and build them along the Type #1 educational philosophy.

How do I know that the NDE is basing the new Proposed 2014 Standards on the 2009 model? After all, the new English Standards have not even been released.

The NDE recently posted on its public website the Agenda for the Monday, April 7, 2014 Work Session. Item 2.3 states that Donlynn Rice will provide an update on the College-and-Career-Ready Language Arts Standards.­.

Under "Background Information" on this document, the NDE states the following (in part):

The review process began by asking Nebraska institutions of higher education to weigh in on the 2009 standards and identify areas for improvement. Once that information was gathered as with all Nebraska standards development, a writing group comprised of Nebraska K-16 educators, administrators and specialists went to work.

The 2014 standards look very similar to the 2009 set but have been made more rigorous as a result of the review process. The format of the standards has remained essentially the same with two small changes. The standards in the high school grade band have been split into smaller 9-10 and 11-12 grade bands, replacing the 9-12 grade bands in the 2009 standards.

The Board will be provided with an overview of the changes made thus far and discuss a plan for the next step in the standards process which is the public comment period. The Board will vote on whether or not to release the draft for public comment in April.­.

Darlene E.
user 14539080
Omaha, NE
Post #: 410
When the NDE arbitrarily decided that the base document for the new 2014 standards would be that of the 2009 standards, everything from that point on has been fruitless, just as building the federal courthouse in the wrong spot proved foolhardy.

The best approach would have been to begin the new 2014 standards on a strong Type #1 foundation, modeling the Nebraska standards after other good Type #1 standards documents. I made this suggestion in 1997, 2008, 2013, and 2014. (These suggestions will be discussed later in this report.)

What a nonsensical decision to utilize the 2009 Nebraska Standards as the model when the Fordham Foundation gave that document an “F” partly because it did not clearly define the goals to be reached at each grade level.


By utilizing the wrong foundation (Type #2), the NDE is not following one of the first rules of a good standards document; standards must be grade-specific to make sure that all teachers, students, and parents know what the yearly goals are. On 4.4.14, the NDE announced:

The standards in the high school grade band have been split into smaller 9-10 and 11-12 grade bands, replacing the 9-12 grade bands in the 2009 standards.

Evidently the NDE has not learned anything from its past mistakes! Standards must be grade-level specific. This means that a separate set of well-defined standards needs to be written for every single grade level!

[I have addressed all of these points repeatedly in my reports and presentations before the SBOE.]

Finally, the NDE states:

The Board will vote on whether or not to release the draft for public comment in April.

Darlene E.
user 14539080
Omaha, NE
Post #: 411
The Nebraska State Board of Education has scheduled the following Meetings for the remainder of 2014:
May 8-9, 2014
June 5-6, 2014
July - No Meeting
August 7-8, 2014
September 4-5, 2014
October 2-3, 2014
November 6-7, 2014
December 4-5, 2014­

I am very concerned that because the NDE is behind schedule on finalizing the standards that they might push for quick action on the standards which could impede the effort to develop exemplary standards.

Because of the strong grassroots opposition to the Common Core Standards in Nebraska , the Nebraska Department of Education will probably not overtly adopt Common Core. However, they may attempt to sneak it in under another name. Loosely worded, generic, non-grade-level-specific state standards which are not measurable are an open invitation for the Common Core.

Already, several Nebraska school districts are using Common Core Math textbooks. For example, the Omaha Public Schools is using Go Math! In K-6; and Ralston Public Schools is using Math Expressionsin K-5 and Holt Math in Grades 6-12. Several other Nebraska school districts have Common Core-aligned Math textbooks.

The existing Nebraska Standards in the four core subject areas (English, Math, Science, and Social Studies) are best described as Type #2 standards (the same educational philosophy as Common Core).

One of the big propaganda ploys of the Common Core Standards is to say that they are College and Career Ready. However, nobody connected with the Common Core can explicitly describe what that term means; and the Common Core Standards are not internationally benchmarked nor have they been piloted to prove their academic superiority. The NDE is falling in line with the same Common Core philosophy by utilizing the same terminology: “College and Career Readiness."­.

The Update for the April Nebraska SBOE Board Meeting labeled the English Standards "College-and Career-Ready Language Arts Standards."

Darlene E.
user 14539080
Omaha, NE
Post #: 412
Attributes of Good State Standards

Very few state standards are truly exemplary. As I have previously demonstrated, the Common Core Standards definitely fail to make the grade.

In order to have excellent state standards, they need to be:

1. Explicit
2. Knowledge-based
3. Academic
4. Clearly-worded
5. Grade-level specific
6. Measurable

If state standards comply with the six criteria listed above, teachers will not have to second-guess the standards writers. School districts will not need to hire expensive consultants to “interpret” the standards nor to develop curriculum; it will be readily apparent what is required for each and every grade (and course). Similarly, the school districts will save money that otherwise would be spent with Educational Service Units (ESU's).

Type #1 and Type #2 Education

Long-time, experienced educators know that there are basically two philosophies of education (i.e., Type #1 and Type #2). Nearly all educators, curriculum, vendors, lobbyists, organizations, and advocacy groups fall into either Type #1 or Type #2.

Basically Type #1 means the curriculum standards are traditional/knowledge-based/academic, emphasize back-to-the-basics core knowledge and skills that grow in depth and complexity from one grade level to the next, are specific for each grade level (or course), and can be tested largely through objective questions that have right-or-wrong answers.

Exemplary education standards must be Type #1!

Common Core Standards as well as school-to-work, outcome-based education, CSCOPE, etc. are examples of Type #2.

With Type #2 education, students work in groups, receive group grades, and receive project-based learning (constructivism). Tests (assessments) have many subjective questions with few if any right or wrong answers; the people scoring the tests determine what is correct.

A handy chart provides the characteristics of Type #1 and Type #2 education:

[Additional information on Type #1 and Type #2 education is included in Appendix "A."]

Darlene E.
user 14539080
Omaha, NE
Post #: 413
The Correct Way to Develop Good Standards

Because I have criticized the existing and proposed Nebraska Standards, I believe it is important for me to offer some positive suggestions to do it the right way.

The first suggestion is to start with exemplary Type #1 English Standards. At the November 2013 Board Meeting, I suggested that the SBOE adopt the Texas ELAR Standards. This is the link to the Texas TEKS for English:

In the February 2014 Board Meeting, I recommended that the Board adopt the Type #1 English Success Standards (ESS). These are excellent standards; and the work has already been done. This is a link to the ESS:

The NDE should assemble a writing team of experienced classroom teachers and educators, made up preferably of those who are currently in the classrooms each day. Tell them that the final standards must be traditional, classical Type #1 standards. Make sure that they clearly understand the differences between Type #1 and Type #2 educational philosophies.

Focus on the six attributes of exemplary Type #1 state standards. The standards must be: explicit, knowledge-based, academic, clearly-worded, grade-level specific, and measurable. Do not let the writing team wander away from these basic tenets. For example, do not let the standards fall into the Type #2 trap (how the student feels about something, the student's opinion on an issue, personal beliefs, etc.). Standards must be knowledge-based!

Give the ELAR writing teams the two documents mentioned previously (ELAR-TEKS and English Success Standards); and encourage the writing team to go through the two documents, pulling out the elements that would be good for Nebraska students.

As the writing team is writing the standards, members must constantly be reminded to follow the six tenets of good Type #1 standards, checking constantly to see that proper scope and sequence are occurring within each grade level and between each grade level.

Some Things Never Change at the NDE

At the present time, I am very frustrated with the NDE. It seems that some things never change at the Nebraska Department of Education (NDE). In 1997, the NDE revised and updated the existingstandards; and they have done the same thing during every revision cycle since. They persist on tweaking the existing standards, rather than creating a first-class set of Type #1 standards.

On 11.04.13 I sent the NDE and the State Board of Education (SBOE) the report entitled "Proposed Nebraska Standards for English Language Arts and Reading ." Appendix "A" of the November report included two letters -- 6.25.08 and 7.02.08. These letters are included as Appendix "B" of this report.

Darlene E.
user 14539080
Omaha, NE
Post #: 414
1. I first appealed to the Nebraska State Board of Education (SBOE) and Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) in 1997 to adopt an alternate set of English Language Arts Standards (NEEDS). The Nebraska Standards were very poor and provided standards for only Grades 4, 8 and 12. My effort failed and the SBOE adopted the weak Nebraska Standards.

2. In 2008, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) gave the Nebraska Standards the equivalent oftwelve "F's" for the four core subjects of English, Math, Science, and Social Studies, at the Elementary Level, Middle Level, and High School Level.

3. In 2008, I proposed the English Success Standards (ESS) as a much better set of English standards. Even though the cost was zero, the NDE chose to stay with their very poor standards.

4. I pointed out in one of my letters that Nebraska law (LB 1157) requires: "The standards adopted shall be sufficiently clear and measurable to be used for testing student performance." The Nebraska Standards do not satisfy this requirement.

5. The NDE spent $50,000 with Achieve, Inc. and $50,000 with McREL to review the Nebraska Standards. After spending $100,000, Nebraska still has poor standards! Fordham gave the Nebraska English Standards an "F" and the Math Standards a "C" in 2010.


6. Instead of sending the Standards to questionable, Type #2 organizations, I suggested that the NDE use real education experts. I recommended the following recognized scholars and educators (in this order): (1) Dr. Sandra Stotsky , (2) Dr. Reid Lyon, (3) Dr. Barbara Foorman, and (4) Elaine McEwan.

The SBOE and NDE chose Dr. Reid Lyon but did not consult with any of the other suggested experts.However, Dr. Reid Lyon’s expertise and research are in the emergent reading grades (K-3); but he is not an expert in the upper grades. Dr. Sandra Stotsky most certainly is.

7. In the 7.02.08 letter, I included an evaluation of the Nebraska English Standards by a real education expert – an experienced and current classroom teacher who had been involved in numerous standards writing projects. The expert said the Nebraska Standards were "terrible!"

8. I also addressed the lack of transparency at the NDE. The NDE has a habit of making it difficult for the public stakeholders to examine and review the proposed standards. In 2008, I commented: "I think it is a travesty that the public has been left out of this standards process."

The same indictment against the NDE can be made today since the NDE has not posted the Proposed English Standards on the website (as of 4.7.14). All of the Nebraska stakeholders should be able to examine and review the Standards before they are approved by the SBOE.

Darlene E.
user 14539080
Omaha, NE
Post #: 415
9. The NDE posted the Timeline for Nebraska Academic Standards Review for College and Career Readiness in August 2013. It mentions convening representatives from the Nebraska colleges to review the 2009 Nebraska Standards. I have seen no results from this process.

10. The Timeline calls for presenting the first draft of the English Standards (Language) to the SBOE by January 2014. Also it calls for presenting the first draft of the Math Standards by March 2014. This process is running behind schedule.

11. In 1997 and 2008, I recommended that the NDE and SBOE adopt alternative standards rather than revising the existing standards.

12. Over the last six months (since October 2013), I have testified six times to urge the Board to adopt alternative standards. In spite of this effort, the NDE is sticking with its old approach of "revising the existing Type #2 standards." By using a failed foundation, more failure is sure to follow.

13. Donlynn Rice (NDE Curriculum Administrator) gave a presentation at the April 7, 2014 Work Session. Mrs. Rice said that 74 % of the standards in the Proposed English Standards Document were drawn directly from the 2009 Standards.

That should tell you everything you need to know about the Proposed Standards. Fordham gave that document an "F" in 2010.

Obviously, the NDE is sticking with its old approach of "revising the existing Type #2 standards." By using a flawed foundation, more failure is sure to follow.


10.02.13 -- " Nebraska Common Core Implementation Costs"

It will cost Nebraska $115 million (net amount) to implement the Common Core Standards (CCS). Where will Nebraska find $115 million to implement the mediocre Common Core Standards?

11.04.13 -- "Proposed Nebraska Standards for ELAR"

I believe the Texas Standards for English Language Arts and Reading are very good. I strongly recommend that the Nebraska State Board of Education and Nebraska Department of Education utilize these standards as a framework for our standards.

12.04.13 -- "National Test Results, Evaluation of NE Standards"

As long as the Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) insists on revising and tweaking the existing Standards, Nebraska will have horrible standards!
Darlene E.
user 14539080
Omaha, NE
Post #: 416
[My report covered the "2013 NAEP Grade 4 Reading Results.”]
Nebraska's NAEP scores have been flat since Nebraska students started taking the tests in 1992 (no improvement). If Nebraska had good English Language Arts Standards, there would be some improvement in test scores.

Nebraska is ranked No. 19 on Minority Rank, but the state is ranked No. 24 on Average Scale Score.

Based on the nationwide NAEP and ACT assessment results, it is apparent that Nebraska students need to improve. The best way to ensure improved performance is with better state standards.

When I consider the Stotsky Guidelines, phonics, and English grammar, I would give the Nebraska Language Arts Standards a grade of "F!"

12.29.13 -- "An Engineer Looks at Common Core Math Standards"


The Common Core mathematics standards do not make high school graduates "college and career-ready," as the Common Core proponents claim. The national mathematics standards will not prepare students to study science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) in a selective four-year college.

The Pioneer report concludes by offering these chilling indictments:
At this time we can conclude only that a gigantic fraud has been perpetrated on this country, in particular on parents in this country, by those developing, promoting, or endorsing Common Core’s standards.

Professor William McCallum, one of the three authors of Common Core's math standards, said that "overall standards wouldn't be very high" and "not up to the standards of other nations."

1.02.14 -- "Common Core Math in Nebraska Schools"

The Omaha Public Schools have essentially adopted the Common Core Standards for Mathematics by using the textbook Go Math. If OPS adopts the Common Core Standards (CCS) for both English and Math, it would be a major decision for the school district.

This means it would cost OPS at least $19 million to implement the Common Core Standards. Where will the Omaha taxpayers find $19 million to implement the mediocre Common Core Standards?

2.05.14 -- "Proposed Nebraska English Standards"


Would Nebraska like to have one of the best English Language Arts and Reading (ELAR) Standards in the country?

Would Nebraska be interested if it could obtain this set of ELAR Standards for absolutely no cost?

This is a direct link to the English Success Standards (ESS):

Darlene E.
user 14539080
Omaha, NE
Post #: 417
Henry Burke states:

When I applied the Stotsky Guidelines to the English Success Standards, I found that the Standards are very rigorous. I would give the English Success Standards a grade of "A."

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