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The Nebraska Board of Education has hired consultants to review the standards development

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On Friday, members of the Nebraska Board of Education voted to hire consultants to explore the state’s process for developing academic content standards.

Over the years, state standards-making processes have regularly produced standards for required core subjects such as math and English in large numbers, with little controversy.

But when the board last year introduced optional health education standards that included sex education, it ignited such overwhelming public opposition that the board pulled the plug.

Board members voted 8-0 to approve a contract with the US Research Institute, a non-profit organization located in Arlington, Virginia, to School Board member Matt Blomstedt.

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Under the $50,000 contract, the organization will study the processes used by the State of Nebraska and provide a report with recommendations by May 1, 2023.

Hiring a consultant was one of several recommendations of a special board committee appointed last November after the board indefinitely postponed the development of health education standards in September.

Standards are what state officials believe children should know and be able to do at each grade level.

In the past, the proposed Nebraska Standards for Social Studies and Sciences have sparked several small skirmishes over content. But those debates paled next to the violent storm that erupted when the commission proposed what it described as a comprehensive standard that included education about gender identity and sexual orientation.

The first draft called for teaching children up to age 6 about gender identity and gender stereotypes.

Proponents said the standard would stop bullying, prevent suicide, and make schools a welcoming place for all students, regardless of gender identity or non-traditional family structure.

Opponents said the standard amounted to political advocacy that did not reflect the values ​​of most parents in Nebraska. Told.

Several board members have suggested that the failure of standards is due in part to process problems.

Critics say the Nebraska Department of Education did not let conservative voices participate in the writing process.

Board member Patti Gabbels said the review would be “close to an external assessment.”

Consultants “examine the standards development processes and procedures and perform a thorough evaluation that includes suggestions for improvement,” says Gubbels.

Consultants will look at how other states are developing standards. The review includes focus group interviews with school leaders, teachers, policy makers, parents, families and caregivers.

Board member Kirk Penner voted in favor, but said he didn’t think the review would help much. He said the process was not the reason the standards failed.

“It’s content and they don’t get it from this consultant,” Penner said.