Closer Look at Changes to Nebraska’s Business Education Standards

Dec. 20, 2018, 6:45 a.m. ·


Listen To This Story

One news story that didn’t make headlines in Nebraska recently was the changing of standards for Business, Marketing, and Management by the Nebraska Board of Education. We look at the changes in standards and what large and small school districts around Nebraska are doing to meet them.

On December 7th, to little fanfare, the Nebraska Board of Education updated standards to the career education content area of Business, Marketing, and Management (BMM). These changes occur every eight years and preparations for this go round were years in the making. A lot went into setting this up: research into trends around the country in business, groundwork for planning committees and setting up standards writing teams. This all started in 2016. Educators from around Nebraska met with the BMIT coalition – that’s the Business, Marketing, and Information Technology coalition – to craft the new BMM standards. The BMIT Coalition includes presidents and CEOs from groups like the Nebraska Retail Federation, The Nebraska Bankers Association and the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

A look at the new Nebraska Career Education Model. (Courtesy of the Nebraska Department of Education)

"One of the biggest pieces that business and industry said that we were missing was offering more internship opportunities, offering opportunities for workplace experiences," Robinson said.

That’s Jaime Robinson, head of the business department at Millard South High School. She said the business leaders and educators both wanted to have students exposed to workplace experiences sooner. Getting them into internships into their field of choice with the hope to expose them to work experiences they wouldn’t normally get until after high school. Sydney Kobza is with Nebraska Department of Education. She said if a student wants to go into finance, they can enroll in courses which will help them understand the ins and outs of the field and an internship which will give them experience and a chance at honing leadership skills.

"That work based experience requires them to go into a career field in that accounting area and get experience with those business people's as an internship," Kobza said.

She said some other changes with the BMM standards created a consolidation of some “career cluster” programs of study. The emphasis being on flexibility within each career cluster. For example, if a student was taking a program of study in finance, they could take courses with a focus in accounting, banking or securities and investments – while staying within the same career path.

“But they still can offer maybe that year of marketing and an entrepreneurship course where then a student can go through that marketing entrepreneurship pathway and still get exposed to those areas," Kobza said.

Here is a broad look at implementation of the new standards. (Courtesy Nebraska Department of Education)

Kobza said this will allow the more rural school districts to stay on the same playing field as schools in larger communities. At Millard South, Robinson said the new career clusters will prepare students for college as well as entry into a career area, right out of high school. Some of this comes from students being taken out of the classroom to learn.

"Businesses will say, ‘Okay, so kids can do accounting on the computer, but do they really know what's happening in the accounting? Can they really think through those processes?’ and that's where I think that led us to bringing in those real life situations and bringing in the pieces for them to kind of break it down," Robinson said.

She said at Millard South, the focus has been to push students towards college after high school. But that has been changing and these BMM standards will help that.

"Our building has always been: ACT, ACT, ACT driven. We still are – but in many ways our district now is really starting to push that career focus – not just college focus," Robinson said.

Kobza said the BMIT coalition wanted to focus heavily on something that is important for students to understand early on: debt.

"Understanding – don't sign up for those early credit cards right away, making sure that they understand an interest rate and how money can compound – the time value of money – and then also just making sure that they are aware so that they don't go into debt." Kobza said.

Shauna Koger is a business teacher at Arlington high school in Arlington, Nebraska. She said though her school district is small, there are 698 students in the entire district, so necessity forces them to be more innovative.

"I like being the only one teaching my course because it gives me some ability to modify and do things in a way that I want to do it," Koger said. "We do – in a smaller school – collaborate. So, our business department even though we each teach own course will sit down and talk strategies – different things that we would like to do to enhance student learning."

Koger said there is one program they have been doing for three years, which gives them a head start with these new BMM standards. In it, the students not only learn about saving money – they actively save their own money.

"My high school students run a bank for the elementary (students) to teach those saving habits," Koger said. "Those students then bring their deposits every Friday – my high school students work as tellers – and then Two Rivers Bank is our school sponsor. They bring in their employees and to assist my students serving as tellers each week."

The “In School Savings Program” is sponsored by the Nebraska Council for Economic Education. There are other schools in Nebraska using this program, but Arlington is unique in that high school students are getting real world work experience as bank tellers.

"We started this program 3 years ago -- our elementary students have saved over $25,000," Koger said. "So our thought is we started early, we get them thinking about money, thinking about saving and developing good money habits."

Koger said educators in Nebraska have tried to stay ahead of the game with trends and this program is just one example of school districts doing it. The BMM standards key changes: increased rigor and a push for more internships and real life work experiences will be implemented over the coming school years in Nebraska to help ready business students for entrepreneurship and employment after school.