Contact Us

If you have questions about the Academic Standards or SIT Tool, please contact one of the following individuals:

Cory Epler, PhD, Chief Academic Officer
Nebraska Department of Education
301 Centennial Mall South
Lincoln, NE 68509
402.471.3240
cory.epler@nebraska.gov
Assistant: Sal Curtis – 402.471.6692 or sally.curtis@nebraska.gov

Marissa Payzant, ELA Education Specialist
Nebraska Department of Education
301 Centennial Mall South
Lincoln, NE 68509
402.471.4336
marissa.payzant@nebraska.gov
Assistant: Carol Bom – 402.471.3962 or carol.bom@nebraska.gov

Deb Romanek, Math Specialist
Nebraska Department of Education
301 Centennial Mall South
Lincoln, NE 68509
402.471.2503
deb.romanek@nebraska.gov
Assistant: Patsy Shald – 402.471.2109 or patsy.shald@nebraska.gov

Sara Cooper, Science Specialist
Nebraska Department of Education
301 Centennial Mall South
Lincoln, NE 68509
sara.cooper@nebraska.gov
Assistant: Patsy Shald – 402.471.2109 or patsy.shald@nebraska.gov

Harris Payne, Social Studies Director
Nebraska Department of Education
301 Centennial Mall South
Lincoln, NE 68509
402.471.2449
harris.payne@nebraska.gov
Assistant: Rhonda Wisdom – 402-471-2446 or rhonda.wisdom@nebraska.gov

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Specific

Specificity addresses whether the language used in standards and indicators is detailed enough to be accurately interpreted. If the language of an indicator does not adequately specify the knowledge or skills that students need to learn, it cannot be consistently assessed and aligned with instructional approaches. To determine whether an indicator is adequately specific, two questions might be asked:

1. Will teachers know what students should know and be able to do?

2. Will teachers know what students have learned previously in order to develop an instructional approach that meets the needs of each learner?   

The content described in content area standards should also be of a consistent or similar grain size—that is, readers should be able to anticipate how large or small a scope of content will be addressed in any one indicator (Marzano & Kendall, 1997). When the level of specificity is inconsistent, the purpose of the standards becomes less clear. If one indicator describes knowledge or skills that would take a student several weeks to master, and another indicator describes knowledge that would just take minutes to learn, the document becomes unwieldy to users who seek to consult it as they plan a unit or lesson.

This information was taken from NDE’s Content Area Standards Reference Guide.  The reference guide, including the references mentioned above, is located here.

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High-Quality Content Standards

Because the Nebraska content area standards provide the framework that guides instructional decisions at the local level, their quality is very important.  Drawing from the
Research base of human cognition, motivation, and teaching/learning, NDE identified criteria that describe the characteristics of high-quality standards.  Throughout the writing process, NDE ensures that standards and indicators meet these expectations.  The characteristics NDE identified for quality content area standards are (1) measurable, (2) appropriately challenging, (3) connected, (4) clearly worded, (5) scaffolded, and (6) specific. These characteristics are described further in the sections that follow.  Appendix A includes a checklist for standards and indicators.

This information was taken from NDE’s Content Area Standards Reference Guide.  The reference guide, including the references mentioned above, is located here.

 

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Standards to Curriculum

Content Area Standards vs. Curriculum

The Nebraska content area standards describe the knowledge and skills that students should learn, but they do not prescribe particular curriculum, lessons, teaching techniques, or activities. Standards describe what students are expected to know and be able to do, while the local curriculum describes how teachers will help students master the standards. A wide variety of instructional resources may be used to meet the state content area standards. Decisions about curriculum and instruction are made locally by individual school districts and classroom teachers. The Nebraska Department of Education does not mandate the curriculum used within a local school.

Figure 1 (below) provides a model that shows the flow of how learning goals are established through Nebraska content standards and are then addressed through indicators and multiple levels of local curriculum decisions.

Standards model graphic

The top two tiers of this model––standards and indicators––are identified through Nebraska’s collaborative process of bringing educators and experts together from across the state; they provide goals for learning in each content area throughout a students’ K–12 education. At the local level, districts select or develop a curriculum that best meets the expectations of the content standards and indicators, as well as meets the unique needs of students and families in the local community. Curricula is selected at the local level and can vary significantly from school to school. Most curricula include pacing guidance, lesson plans, and instructional resources/materials (e.g. textbooks, etc.) to guide the organization and planning of units and lessons across the school year.

The third tier of this model, which encompasses classroom instruction and individual student needs, illustrates the increasingly critical role of teachers. Teachers know best the instructional strategies, approaches, and types of help that will support the particular needs of their students. Guidance and data provided by formative, summative, authentic, and diagnostic assessments help teachers identify gaps in student knowledge and skills. The identification of these learning gaps allows teachers to adapt their lessons and best help students learn the required content.

This information was taken from NDE’s Content Area Standards Reference Guide.  The reference guide, including the references mentioned above, is located here.

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NE Standards Revision

Development process

Nebraska Revised Statute 79-760.01 requires the Nebraska State Board of Education to “adopt measurable academic content standards for at least the grade levels required for statewide assessment” (Academic Content Standards, 2015). The statute specifies that those standards shall cover the subject areas of reading, writing, mathematics, science, and social studies, and, that the State Board of Education shall develop a plan to review and update standards for those subject areas every seven years. The revised statute is effective as of August 30, 2015. In addition to the content area standards required by statute, the Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) developed content area standards for Fine Arts, Physical Education, Health Education, and World Languages, as well as course-based content standards for Career and Technical Education. Although not required by law, the standards provide schools a framework for ensuring quality teaching and learning for all content areas offered in Nebraska schools.

The Nebraska Department of Education uses a consistent process to develop and revise content area standards. The goal of this process is to develop K-12 content area standards that, when mastered, would allow a student to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing postsecondary coursework without the need for remediation. The collaborative writing process utilizes the expertise of Nebraska educators and includes representation from all stages of Nebraska’s educational system (i.e. early childhood education, K–12 education, and postsecondary education). The department ensures that the educators reflect all sizes of schools and all parts of the state. In addition, representatives from the regional Educational Service Units (ESUs) are included as part of the writing teams. The development process includes opportunities for feedback from business and industry representatives as well as local community members, parents, school administrators, and educators not part of the writing process.

Upon approval by the Nebraska State Board of Education and pursuant to Nebraska Revised Statute 79-7601.01, school districts have one year to adopt the state-approved content standards or adopt standards deemed as equal to or more rigorous than the state-approved content standards in the subject areas of reading and writing (English Language Arts), mathematics, science, and social studies (Academic Content Standards, 2015). School districts are encouraged to adopt the state-approved standards in other content areas (Fine Arts, Physical Education, Health Education, World Languages and Career and Technical Education) within one year of being adopted by the State Board of Education.

This information was taken from NDE’s Content Area Standards Reference Guide.  The reference guide, including the references mentioned above, is located here.

 

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Rationale for Content Area Standards

There are several reasons content area standards are developed and adopted. They include:

1. Setting Expectations for Student Learning
Content area standards clearly describe what students need to know and be able to do, placing student learning at the center of schooling. By setting clear expectations for learning, content area standards offer a framework for teachers when designing teaching and learning experiences, and provide a means for students to set personal learning goals associated with academic success (Downing, 2005).

2. Understanding Strengths and Gaps in Student Learning
Content area standards help educators understand and share information about specific strengths and/or gaps in student knowledge and ability, which can inform decisions to improve teaching and learning. This knowledge can help teachers differentiate instruction and thus meet the learning needs of all students (Wertheim & Leyser, 2002).

3. Establishing Rigorous Expectations for Student Learning
The identification of content area standards provides a means to set higher expectations for student learning. With increasing demands in the job market for highly-skilled workers (Hanushek, Woessmann & Peterson, 2012), it is incumbent on state departments of education to ensure rigorous learning expectations. Rigorous expectations for learning ensure that students are prepared for postsecondary education and careers upon high school graduation.

4. Providing Continuity and Setting High Standards in All Schools
Drawing from a common set of standards ensures that students who may change schools or classrooms do not miss or repeat particular content and stay on a trajectory towards college and career readiness (Kendall, 2011). As students are increasingly mobile (Ihrke, 2014), it is vital that schools develop curriculum from a common set of content area standards so students have equal access to an effective education regardless of their mobility.

5. Promoting Educator Collaboration
Adopting a common set of content area standards allows teachers to collaborate on lesson planning and assessment development. This collaboration can result in more effective lessons, alignment between instruction and assessment, and can positively impact professional growth (Fabilliar & Jones, 2002).

This information was taken from NDE’s Content Area Standards Reference Guide.  The reference guide, including the references mentioned above, is located here.

 

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Standards Instructional Tool (SIT)

Welcome to the Nebraska Department of Education’s Standards Instructional Tool

This site was designed with Nebraska’s classroom teachers in mind.  The development of the Nebraska Standards Instructional Tool followed the same process used in the academic standards and assessment development; relying on the expertise of classroom educators in Nebraska.  Groups of teachers worked together alongside Department personnel to identify the Nebraska Language Arts and Mathematics standards most in need of additional resources.  These resources may include:

  • A glossary of key words
  • Further definitions/explanations of the indicators when warranted
  • Classroom instructional resources (sample exercises, activities, web links, videos, etc.) that can be used and adapted to fit the needs of a particular teacher or to more closely align to a local school or district’s curriculum.

How to Use the Tool

Begin by selecting which content area and grade level(s) you wish to use.  Click on the appropriate boxes and hit the search button.  Once into the site click on the (+) button(s) to access the indicators and resources. (Please remember this site is “under construction”. Additional resources will be added throughout the coming months.) 

Disclaimer: This website contains links to sites which are not maintained by or under the control of the State of Nebraska.  NDE has attempted to post sites that will be helpful but this should not be construed as an endorsement. Some of the sites may charge for use of resources.  The Department of Education is not responsible for the charges – please be sure to check prior to their use.  If you choose to access these resources you will be responsible for the charges incurred.

Click here to begin using the tool: Standards Instructional Tool (SIT)

 

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Checklist for High-Quality Standards

Measurable

 Do the standards and indicators start with an action verb at the appropriate level in the relevant learning domain (cognitive, affective, or psychomotor)?

 Can an assessment of learning be designed from the indicator?

 Do the standards/indicators emphasize what students will learn or demonstrate as opposed to how they will learn or demonstrate?

Appropriately Challenging

 Are the standards and indicators developmentally appropriate for the intended group of learners?

 Do the standards and indicators prepare students for higher levels of thinking, feeling, or doing?

 Are the standards and indicators written at the highest level of thinking, feeling, or doing for the intended group of learners?

Connected

 Are the standards and indicators connected to future learning?

 Have the Nebraska Career Readiness Standards been embedded, when appropriate?

 Do the standards and indicators allow for connections to other content areas (e.g. English Language Arts, Mathematics, etc.)

Clearly Worded

 Do the standards and indicators start with an action verb?

 Are the standards and indicators written concisely? Is consistent language used?

 Does the writing of the standards and indicators follow appropriate conventions of writing and grammar?

 Does each indicator include only one topic or thought?

 Has the use of multiple topics or thoughts in one indicator been avoided (e.g. double-barreled statements)?

Scaffolded

 Does the content in the standards and indicators reflect a content-based learning progression?

 Does the content in the standards and indicators build off of previously mastered content or concepts?

 Is the content in the standards and indicators a prerequisite for future learning?

 Is the learning progression free of gaps?

 Does the verb level the standard reflects the highest level of thinking, feeling, and doing (i.e. The verb level of the indicator should not supersede the verb level of the standard)?

Specific

 Do the indicators provide a benchmark for identifying student mastery of the standard?

 Can the standard/indicator be made less ambiguous or less obscure?

 Are the standards and indicators measurable?

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Clearly Worded

Content area standards must effectively communicate what students should know and be able to do (Izumi, 1999; Lerner, et. al, 2012). The language used within standards and indicators should be clear.  Language that is unclear or vague cannot communicate directly the content that should be taught and learned. To help clarify standards, optional examples within parentheses (sometimes expressed as an “e.g.”) may be included to provide clarity around learning expectations. 

Clearly worded content area standards begin with action verbs that identify the level of cognitive demand expected of students.  Standards and indicators should be written concisely and include only one expectation within a single indicator. Including more than one expectation within an indicator may confuse readers as to the intended focus and may confound assessment if a student demonstrates mastery on the only part of the indicator. For example, an indicator that requires students to demonstrate balance and endurance during physical activity may be problematic if a student has balance, but not endurance, or vice versa.

The language used in content area standards should also be free of word or expressions that are difficult for educators to understand (Rutherford & Boehm, 2004). Technical terms should be avoided; if technical terms are used, a glossary should be provided. Content area standards can, and perhaps should in some cases, use technical terminology to explicate accurately and precisely what students should know and be able to do. However, when technical terms are used, they should be explained in such a way that they can be understood by those who do not have a technical background in the field.

 

This information was taken from NDE’s Content Area Standards Reference Guide.  The reference guide, including the references mentioned above, is located here.

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Scaffolded

Indicators in the Nebraska content area standards scaffold student learning by sequencing connected knowledge and skills across grades so that students build and deepen understanding and ability over time. In other words, the content included in content area standards represents a learning progression that builds as students move through the educational system.  Scaffolded standards help students make new connections with prior learning, support research-based learning progressions, and help teachers differentiate instruction for individual students.

Scaffolding the knowledge and skills that students learn through a careful sequence of indicators encourages them to make new connections with their prior learning. Previous studies illustrate that people learn by making such connections (Brown & King, 2000; Kostons & Werf, 2015) and that students are able to attain higher levels of understanding when they connect prior and new knowledge (Planas & Nelson, 2008; Vygotsky, 1978).  When standards effectively scaffold student learning they reflect the relationship between categories of information that help students make connections and create the schema.

Indicators provide a clear progression—sometimes called “learning trajectories”—across grade levels and course sequences, and they provide guidance about how children learn specific knowledge and skills (Smith, Wiser, Anderson, & Krajcik, 2006).  When appropriate, indicators should increase in complexity and depth over multiple grades to ultimately meet the level expected by the overarching standard statement. It is important that indicators never exceed the level of demand described in the standard, as the standard reflects the highest level required of all students.

To effectively scaffold student learning—or support students in attaining the goals identified in the overarching content standards—indicators differentiate specific knowledge and skills that students learn at different times. When indicators are virtually the same within two or more sequential grades or courses, they do not provide meaningful instruction or assessment information for teachers. For example, when indicators are duplicated rather than scaffolded, it becomes unclear whether the content’s first appearance in the standards is intended for introduction or for mastery, and whether its subsequent appearances in the standards are intended for mastery or for review. Content that is repeated without a clear indication of how the knowledge or skill builds in complexity increases the overall number of indicators, which tends to make standards documents unfocused and cumbersome.

Traditionally, indicators indicate the grade or course in which the knowledge or skill is intended to be mastered. However, teachers can determine that a student is performing at a higher or lower level in relation to a specific knowledge or skill by referring to the progression of learning described in the standards (Clements & Sarama, 2004). Teachers can then use the learning progression evident to scaffold and differentiate instruction, ensuring that each indicator is mastered by students before they move onto the next piece of knowledge or skill that builds on attained learning (Guskey, 2007).

 

This information was taken from NDE’s Content Area Standards Reference Guide.  The reference guide, including the references mentioned above, is located here.

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