Today I want to provide an update on Nebraska's P-16 Initiative that is working to strengthen our education system in Nebraska from preschool through high school and four years of college.
I serve as chair of the P-16 Initiative with four key state education leaders serving as co-chairs, including: State Sen. Greg Adams, Chairman of the Legislature's Education Committee, Dr. Roger Breed, Commissioner of the Nebraska Department of Education, University of Nebraska President James B. Milliken, and Liz Koop, President and CEO of EducationQuest Foundation.
We have developed the following eight goals that will guide our work to strengthen education in Nebraska.
· 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.
· Eliminate the academic achievement gap between Nebraska's K-12 Caucasian students and its African American, Hispanic, and Native American students.
· 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.
· Attain a high school graduation rate of 90 percent or higher in every Nebraska high school.
· Improve Nebraska's college-going rank to the Top 10 tier nationally.
· Provide affordable access for Nebraska students to attend Nebraska's postsecondary institutions.
· Improve time to degree completion and increase graduation rates of Nebraska's postsecondary institutions.
· Provide all students with the science, technology and math skills to succeed in postsecondary education and the 21st Century workforce.
Earlier this year we accomplished the first goal when the State Board of Education approved the first update to high school graduation requirements in 25 years. While we are working on each of the seven remaining goals, our focus is to improve high school graduation rates and college attendance for Nebraska students. This fall my fellow P-16 co-chairs and I toured the state encouraging students and families to visit a college campus as they think about college and begin making plans for life after high school. Visiting a campus up close and in person can be especially important in changing the perceptions of students who don't think they are a good fit for college.
These are issues that other states are addressing as well. This year governors are involved in an initiative known as 'Compete to Complete.' It's focused on encouraging more Americans to complete college degrees.
In early December, I will be attending a conference in Charlottesville, Va. to talk about raising the bar for higher education with university and college presidents and other education leaders. We will be examining ways to improve higher education while also helping colleges and universities operate more efficiently in order to maximize resources during tight economic times.
These are issues that impact Nebraska and all states. We are fortunate to have a team of committed leaders working to address these issues in Nebraska, and I look forward to sharing some of our successes and hearing the ideas of others who face these challenges.