New educational goals for Nebraska

University of Nebraska President James B. Milliken joined Gov. Heineman and education leaders in a news conference Aug. 24 to announce new goals for Nebraska’s P-16 Initiative. The P-16 Initiative is a coalition of 27 Nebraska education, business and government groups committed to improving student success rates at all levels, from preschool through college and beyond.

Nebraska P-16 goals are as follows:
  1. Adopt a college and career preparation core curriculum that requires four years of English and three years each of math, science and social studies in Nebraska school districts by the 2014-15 school year.
  2. Eliminate the academic achievement gap between Nebraska’s K-12 Caucasian students and its African American, Hispanic, and Native American students.
  3. Develop an effective longitudinal data system which provides information on the Nebraska educational system from preschool through post-graduate degree attainment and entry into the workforce to help align resources with strategic goals.
  4. Improve Nebraska’s high school graduation rate to 90 percent.
  5. Improve Nebraska’s college-going rank to the Top 10 tier nationally.
  6. Provide affordable access for Nebraska students to attend Nebraska’s postsecondary institutions.
  7. Improve time to degree completion and increase graduation rates of Nebraska’s postsecondary institutions.
  8. Increase by five percent the number of teacher education graduates in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) within Nebraska postsecondary institutions.
Nebraska P-16 has been reorganized with the Governor serving as chairman; key state education leaders serves as co-chairs, including Milliken; Sen. Greg Adams, Chairman of the Legislature’s Education Committee; Dr. Roger Breed, Commissioner of Education; and Liz Koop, President and CEO of EducationQuest Foundation. Each leader will work with other Nebraska P-16 members to address the goals identified in order to strengthen education in Nebraska.

“The most important things our state can do to offer economic opportunity to individual Nebraskans are to prepare them successfully for college, provide the opportunity for them to attend college, and help them graduate on time,” Milliken said. “It also happens that for the state of Nebraska to be competitive, we need to do everything we can to develop and retain talent in our state. The goals of the P-16 Initiative are designed to achieve these goals.” Milliken leads goal 7 and co-leads goals 5 and 6 with Koop. Koop said, “Many organizations in our state are doing great things to help more students get to college, and this is slowly but surely helping establish a college-going culture.” Heineman said, “These goals are about preparing our students for the 21st Century. Today’s students are more likely to be innovators, critical thinkers and entrepreneurs. Academic rigor and high standards of academic excellence are very important. One of my assignments is to address the need for a core curriculum in our schools. A core curriculum is essential to helping Nebraska students compete in a knowledge-based, technology-driven, global economy.”

Adams, who co-leads Goal 1 with Gov. Heineman and leads Goal 8, added, “We have an obligation to do all that we can to prepare Nebraska students for education beyond high school and for 21st Century careers. Our new economy is crying out for our students to be better prepared in the areas of math, science and technology and the most important element in achieving that goal is the teacher in the classroom.The Nebraska P-16 Initiative is refocusing our educational efforts in response to a changing world economy.”

Breed leads goals 2 and 3. He said, “Nebraska students and teachers achieve at high levels in comparison to others nationally. However, our overall good performance masks significant gaps among student groups. Closing achievement gaps presents a huge challenge that few if any states have been able to eliminate. We can, however, do better. These goals require a significant commitment of time, talent and resources, but Nebraskans are up to the task and I look forward to the challenge.”

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