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Nebraska State of the Schools Report 2014

The Nebraska Department of Education released its annual state of the schools report on October 24.   

The NeSA test results from 2013-14 for individual students and schools were released August 26, 2014. As previously reported, District 145 students continue to demonstrate growth and improvement. Individual student information was given to parents and published on our website (click here to view). 

Regarding the NeSA scores in our district, our average scale score at each building was comparable to, or above the state average in nearly all categories. The vast majority of our students meet or exceed the state proficiency expectations. NeSA Reading performance continues to be very good. NeSA Writing scores from last spring were not utilized by the state due to problems with test administration. In Math, the percentage of students proficient improved significantly from 2013 in grades 4, 5, 7, and 11, but decreased in grades 6 and 8. The math average scale score increased in six out of seven categories from 2013 to 2014. Science results for grade five were below state averages in 2014, while grades 8 and 11 were above the state average scale scores with 88% of students  proficient in grade 8 and 85% of students proficient in grade 11.

Other information about school districts include attendance and graduation rates, both of which our district recieves high marks. We have a highly educated faculty, with over 64% of our teachers earning at least a master's degree in education, which is 13% higher than the state average. Our ACT score once again exceeds state and national averages. Our students are having academic success, and are also demonstrating leadership and service within our schools and communities. With our continuous improvement process, we are always striving to get better - and based on our report card - that is occurring.  

The state accountability system was mandated by the Nebraska state legislature. The basis of the system is Nebraska State Assessments (a.k.a. NeSA), which is a single statewide test given to all students in grades 3-8; and grade 11 in the content areas of reading, writing, math and science.

Although NeSA information is important, it is not the only information we use to measure student performance. One test cannot possibly capture all student learning that takes place. To learn more about the accountability system and about how Nebraska's schools are serving students, read the letter from the Nebraska Department of Education Commissioner, Dr. Matt Blomstedt.

Nebraska Education Commissioner Matt Blomstedt stated in a press release, “The federal school accountability system is flawed and misleading. The federal system mislabels schools. The Nebraska Department of Education does not agree with current federal policy, and I do not believe that all of our schools are low performing,” Blomstedt said.

Under the federal law No Child Left Behind, 480 Nebraska schools and 52 districts were designated in need of improvement because 100 percent of the students were not proficient as required. As a result, federal sanctions will be applied to 265 of those schools and to 50 districts ― sanctions requiring districts to set aside funds, offer school choice or tutoring or to restructure. Congress was scheduled to reauthorize the law in 2007 but that has not occurred, frustrating educators and policy makers in many states. In the meantime, the Nebraska State Board of Education and the Nebraska Department of Education have been working on a new state accountability system, A QuESTT. This process will expand the current state system to look at the quality of the education practices in a school or district to ensure continuous improvement.

Complete results searchable by district and school are available on the Nebraska Department of Education website at NDE website http://www.education.ne.gov

The state accountability results are based on state test scale scores. The system called Nebraska Performance Accountability System (NePAS), ranks public school districts in several ways and categories.

NePAS will rank districts by the following grade level configurations:
1. Elementary grade-level configuration (grades 3-5) (Eagle and W.I.S. are combined)
2. Middle school grade-level configuration (grades 6-8)
3. Secondary grade-level configuration (grades 9-12)
4. District configuration (grades 3-12)

Regardless of our ranking, as a school district our emphasis will be the same:

  • School District #145 – Waverly has a “Commitment to Excellence.”
  • Student success occurs in every classroom and every building; Our students are doing very well.
  • As a district, our test scores (combined grades 3-12) are consistently near or above the state average. Many individual student scores, as well as grade level average scores, exceed state averages. Our reading scores are consistently strong. A high percentage of students meet state proficiencies in all content areas. 
  • We use multiple measures to assess student performance, not just NeSA state test scores.
  • District staff knows what the data says; we will use it help identify areas for improvement.
  • While the comparisons to other districts provide one lens of examining achievement results, the internal focus must always be on helping students grow from year to year, continuing to become more proficient and helping students who are not proficient to achieve mastery of the grade-level standards. We expect individual student academic growth, and improvement should occur from one year to the next.
  • Our AdvancEd district accreditation process requires that we have a systematic continuous improvement process in place. Our latest external review also validated that our staff cares about students, and that we have great community support.
  • We trust (and expect) that each staff member is doing their part to contribute to student success.

Using one ranking to make a judgment (good or bad) about any district is discouraged; just as we would not make a judgment about a student based on one test score. Students demonstrate success in areas such as music, band, art, drama, business, technology, creativity, citizenship, leadership, and teamwork, but those successes are not included in the state tests or rankings of districts. Rankings will change each year. It should be noted that a ranking of #124 is in the top half (out of 249) of public school districts in the state. The actual difference between a ranking of 100 or a ranking of 120 may only be a few points. It is possible to have a higher ranking in one category, and a lower ranking in another category. The rankings do not tell the whole story. The best source of information regarding your student’s learning is still the classroom teacher.

We will remain focused on engaging students as partners in their learning, and we will focus on our continuous improvement process. We believe that our "Commitment to Excellence" requires us to get better every day; taking one step, and one student, at a time. 

We discovered an error of our data that was identified until after the state of the schools report was completed. One piece of data will display incorrectly -  standardized test scores for the 8th grade EXPLORE and 10th grade PLAN tests. This error means it looks like our students scored very low on these standardized tests, but that is not correct. We will publish the corrected information as part of our annual District 145 report card.

If you have questions about the data reported by the state, we encourage you to talk to your student’s principal.

Click here to view other District News Updates

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