LINCOLN — The state has enlisted a tough national critic to review Nebraska's proposed social studies standards.
Jeremy Stern, a history professor who co-authored a 2011 report that gave the state's current U.S. history standards a “C,” will weigh in on the draft social studies standards that will guide teachers in the public schools.
Officials with the Nebraska Department of Education have also tapped a University of Nebraska-Lincoln economist to review them.
Tammie Fischer, director of the center for economic education in the UNL College of Business Administration, will look particularly at how the standards deal with economics.
The reviewers were sought to provide another set of eyes in addition to the department's usual consultant, Denver-based Mid-Continent Regional Education Laboratory.
That private, nonprofit research and development corporation has helped the state in the past by reviewing drafts of other academic standards.
“I think we have some good people doing these reviews,” State Board of Education member Bob Evnen of Lincoln said.
Stern is “no push-over,” Evnen said.
Stern co-authored the report “The State of State U.S. History Standards 2011” for the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute.
The report concluded that Nebraska's existing standards briefly sketch many key themes and issues in American history but “suffer from serious gaps and from a near-total lack of supporting detail.”
The report noted that Nebraska students were required to “explain” the Constitution and Bill of Rights, “describe major issues facing Congress and the first four presidents,” and “explain” the Hamilton-Jefferson schism — all without specifics or explanation.
How much detail to include in the standards has been a question since the first draft came out last spring.
The initial draft was criticized for leaving out key events and people that state officials have since said they intend to restore.
However, some social studies teachers have called for more broadly written standards. They say the standards should be the frame on which local teachers build their curriculum — the content and sequence of what's actually taught.
The public will have a chance to weigh in on the proposed standards after a committee incorporates recommendations from the three reviewers, state officials said.
The second draft of the standards is scheduled for release to schools and the public Oct. 29. The public will have 30 days to review them and submit comments. Testimony will be taken from five locations across the state during a Nov. 15 public meeting.
After public comment, a final draft will be drawn up and submitted to the State Board of Education for approval in December.
“It feels like a very solid process to me, and hopefully we'll have a wonderful outcome,” said board member Lynn Cronk of Grand Island.
The Nebraska Education Department tapped about 50 social studies educators, elementary through college, to rewrite the standards. Nebraska's 249 school districts must adopt the finished state standards or enact their own of equal or greater rigor.
Contact the writer: