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By Sandy Schroth

Department of Education releases school assessment rankings


October 17, 2019

The Nebraska Department of Education released AQuESTT profiles last Wednesday.

Accountability for a Quality Education System Today and Tomorrow is an assessment of the state's schools that was developed to ensure all students across backgrounds and circumstances have access and opportunities for success, according to David Jesperson, public information officer for the Nebraska Department of Education AQuESTT annually classifies schools and the state's districts as excellent, great, good, or needs improvement.

While the AQuESTT system is not based entirely on test scores, they are given the greatest weight. It also includes additional subjective factors including community partnerships, parent engagement; and maintaining a safe, clean environment.

Test scores and performance ratings were rekeased for more than 1,100 schools and 244 districts. A breakdown of preliminary classification indicated that 129 (12%) of the state's schools were classified as excellent, 468 (42%) were great, 370 (33%) were good and 139 (13%) were designated as needs improvement.

Locally, the Ewing district showed improvement. Last year, the assessment report showed the district needed improvement. The district moved to a good designation in the current report, with the elementary school, 82 preschool through sixth-grade students, improving from good to great; and the high school, 55 students in grades seven through 12, from needs improvement to good.

The report showed 37% of the Ewing district's students participated in the gifted program, compared to 13% in the state as a whole; 19% participated in special education, compared to 13% statewide. The district had a 96% attendance rate and 58% participated in the federal free or reduced-price lunch program (45% statewide).

Nebraska Unified District 1 was designated great, overall. The district had 28% of its students in the gifted program and 18% in special education; a 96% attendance rate and 48% participating in the free, reduced-price lunch program. Individual schools within the district received designations as well.

Clearwater Elementary, 88 prekindergarten through sixth-grade students, maintained it's great designation and the high school, 68 students in grades 7-12, improved to excellent, up from the previous great.

Orchard Elementary, 77 students in prekindergarten through sixth grade, dropped to good from the previous great. The the high school, 47 students in grades seven – 12, also dropped, going from excellent to great.

Verdigre elementary school also garnered an excellent rating, while the high school was designated great.

Nearby school results include: Both Chambers and Plainview jumped two categories, from needs improvement to great; O'Neill, maintained a good rating; Elgin and Creighton kept their great designations; and Neligh-Oakdale dropped from great to good.

Statewide test results included: Students in grades three through eight were 55% proficient in English language arts in 2019, compared to 53% in 2018; 51% were proficient in math, down from 54% in 2018; and 79% showed proficiency in science, compared to 77% in 2018. Results from Nebraska 11th graders who took the ACT test in April include 43% proficiency in ELA; 51% in math and 48% in science.Data specific to each district is available online at Individual student t reports have been sent to district administrators for review, with information embargoed until later this month.

"We are committed to ensuring the equitable distribution of learning opportunities to each and every student in Nebraska," said Matthew L. Blomstedt, commissioner of education. "Our accountability results illustrate that not every student group is performing at their highest level. It is our role to give all students the resources they need to succeed and to move all students toward excellence."

Jesperson said NDE provided support in different ways to better target funds and resources to schools that need to improve. Four schools in the needs improvement classification were designated as priority schools and have received professional development, coaching and new instructional materials. Those schools are Schuyler Central High School in Schuyler and Santee elementary, middle and high schools.

In addition to priority school support, Jesperson said 27 schools were named comprehensive support and improvement in 2018. Schools with this designation are performing in the lowest 5% of Title I schools or have a graduation rate of 67% or below and will continue to receive support from the state.

Accountability results released last week also include a new level of support for Nebraska schools and districts focused on equity. The targeted support and improvement designation allows the state to focus resources and support in schools that need it most.

Beginning this year, TSI was introduced in those schools with consistently underperforming student groups. Those 10 student groups are: Black/African American, Hispanic/Latinx, Native American/Alaskan, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, two or more races, Asian, White, English learners, students with disabilities and economically disadvantaged.

TSI designation looks across several indicators including graduation rate, chronic absenteeism, growth and proficiency, to reveal potential opportunity gaps and provide resources to address those gaps. There were 364 schools designated as TSI this year.

Final AQuESTT classifications, including adjustments, will published on the NEP website Nov. 27.


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