Federal

New Nebraska Law to Require Statewide Math, Reading Tests

By Scott J. Cech — June 05, 2007 | Corrected: February 22, 2019 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Corrected: This story originally misidentified Sen. Raikes’ party affiliation. He is an Independent.

In a policy shift of interest beyond Nebraska, Republican Gov. Dave Heineman has signed a bill authorizing statewide reading and math exams to coexist with the state’s unique patchwork of district-level assessments.

The law, finalized on the last day of Nebraska’s legislative session, made the Cornhusker State the last to move toward uniform statewide assessments to meet the accountability requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

What might happen next, however, nobody quite knows.

“It’s really hard to read that bill and see what it means,” said Doug Christensen, the state’s commissioner of education, who said he will spend the next three to six months figuring out how to integrate the local and state-based systems.

On paper, the law looks straightforward: Starting in the 2009-10 school year, the state will begin giving students a uniform exam on which they will have to demonstrate their reading competency. In 2010-11, the same thing will happen in math. Statewide writing exams for grades 4, 8, and 11 have been in place since 2000.

But Mr. Christensen said the state has no plans to ditch the School-based Teacher-led Assessment and Reporting System. STARS is Nebraska’s existing network of math, reading, and other subject-area assessments. Each of the state’s 254 school districts has its own system of testing for those subjects.

Although Mr. Christensen said the U.S. Department of Education process for approving STARS appears nearly complete, the department last year designated the system “nonapproved” for the 2005-06 school year, and noted that the state would not be able to comply with the NCLB law during the 2006-07 school year. That finding was cited in a state audit, released last February, by state Sen. Ron Raikes, the author of the new state law.

The department cited the difficulty of documenting all the widely varying forms of assessment the districts use—everything from multiple-choice paper tests to hands-on lab experimentation.

Comparable Scores Sought

Sen. Raikes, an Independent, insists he doesn’t want to replace the homegrown STARS system with statewide exams; he just wants different districts’ scores to be comparable within the state.

“If you have a statewide math test, would you still use lab experiments or whatever [from the current STARS system] within your classroom to make your students achieve better? Sure you would,” he said. “The only question would be if you use it as an accountability measure or a teaching technique.”

George H. Wood, the principal of Federal Hocking High School in Stewart, Ohio, sees the new law as another nail in the coffin of locally based assessment.

“The unfortunate thing is that Nebraska leads the country in assessment,” said Mr. Wood, who directs the Forum for Education and Democracy, a national group opposed to high-stakes standardized testing. “They’ve developed a really thoughtful and sensitive system that’s really teacher-centered.”

But it’s not certain that the law’s directives will be carried out. In 1998, then-Gov. Ben Nelson, a Democrat, signed a similar bill into law, and it remains on the books. But he subsequently vetoed the funding for it, so the tests the law authorized were never put in place.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Accelerate Learning with Project-Based Learning
Earlier this year, the George Lucas Educational Foundation released four new studies highlighting how project-based learning (PBL) helps accelerate student learning—across age groups, multiple disciplines, and different socio-economic statuses. With this year’s emphasis on unfinished
Content provided by SmartLab Learning
School & District Management Live Online Discussion Principal Overload: How to Manage Anxiety, Stress, and Tough Decisions
According to recent surveys, more than 40 percent of principals are considering leaving their jobs. With the pandemic, running a school building has become even more complicated, and principals' workloads continue to grow. If we
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Building Teacher Capacity for Social-Emotional Learning
Set goals that support adult well-being and social-emotional learning: register today!


Content provided by Panorama

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal California, Florida, and Other States Waiting on Green Light for Their COVID Relief Plans
The list of states with Ed. Dept. approval for their American Rescue Plan blueprints is growing steadily, but two big states aren't on it.
4 min read
Image shows an illustration of money providing relief against coronavirus.
DigitalVision Vectors/iStock/Getty
Federal What Is a School Shooting? Members of Congress Seek a Federal Definition, Reliable Data
A new bill would direct federal departments to track data related to school shootings, a term for which there is no federal definition.
Daniela Altimari, Hartford Courant
4 min read
Police respond to the scene of a shooting at Heritage High School in Newport News, Va., on Saturday Sept. 20, 2021. Newport News police Chief Steve Drew said two students were shot and taken to the hospital and neither injury was thought to be life-threatening. The chief said authorities believe the suspect and victims knew one another but did not provide details.
Police respond to the scene of a shooting at Heritage High School in Newport News, Va., on Saturday Sept. 20, 2021.
John C. Clark/AP Photo
Federal Is the Justice Dept. Silencing Parents or Stepping Up to Protect Educators?
Merrick Garland's move to use the FBI to help protect school officials from violence and harassment has drawn anger and praise.
5 min read
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., speaks during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing to examine Texas's abortion law, Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., speaks during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing to examine Texas's abortion law, Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Tom Williams/Pool via AP
Federal Don't Use Federal COVID Aid to Undermine School Mask Rules, U.S. Treasury Tells Governor
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey violated the intent of COVID aid programs by using them to discourage school mask mandates, an agency letter says.
2 min read
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey speaks at the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix on Nov. 30, 2020. A program announced by Arizona's Republican governor last month to give private school vouchers to students whose parents object to school mask requirements has seen a surge of applications, with twice as many either completed or started than can be funded with the $10 million in federal coronavirus relief cash he earmarked for the program.
A program announced by Arizona's Republican Gov. Doug Ducey in September earmarks federal money to give private school vouchers to students whose parents object to public school mask requirements.
Ross D. Franklin/AP