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Newly approved Nebraska math standards put greater emphasis on data, statistics

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National Assessment of Educational Progress scores of fourth-grade students were released by the Education Department on Sept. 1. The scores reveal the most significant drop in math and reading scores for nine-year-olds in decades.

Revised math standards for Nebraska public schools approved Friday will put extra emphasis on data and statistics, state officials say.

The standards also aim to make sure middle school students are ready for algebra in high school by increasing their understanding of ratios, proportional reasoning and arithmetic of rational numbers.

Members of the Nebraska State Board of Education approved the standards, which are being described as a revision and not a rewrite of the standards approved in 2015.

Standards are a list of knowledge and skills that state officials expect students to learn in a given content area.

It’s up to districts to select the curriculum to teach the standards.

Under state law, school districts must, within a year, adopt the standards or their own set of standards that are at least as rigorous.

The standards adoption comes on the heels of a statewide dip in math proficiency that state officials attribute to the pandemic.

In 2018-19, math proficiency for all tested grades, third through eighth and 11th, was 52%, according to the Nebraska Department of Education.

The following year, testing was suspended because of the pandemic.

Testing resumed in 2020-21, and proficiency that year was 46%.

Officials with the Nebraska Department of Education have been encouraging districts to adopt higher-quality instructional materials, according to Cory Epler, the department’s chief academic officer.

Epler has said he expects proficiency to rise in future years as some school districts use federal pandemic relief money to buy high-quality math curriculum.

Epler said adopting standards is not enough by itself to raise proficiency. Quality instruction is important as well, he said.

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