The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

Potter-Dix rated 'Excellent' in new AQuESTT accountability system

One of only five school districts in Nebraska to receive the rating


For The Sun-Telegraph

The student body of Potter-Dix Public Schools show off their t-shirts commemorating the district receiving an 'Excellent' rating under the new AQuESTT accountability system. Potter-Dix was one of only five school districts in Nebraska to receive the rating.

Potter-Dix Public Schools celebrated earlier this week after ranking in the top five school district in the state under the Nebraska Department of Education's new accountability system, AQuESTT.

Potter-Dix Superintendent Mike Williams said the ranking is quite the accomplishment for the school district and praised the teachers, students and the community for their hard work.

AQuESTT, or Accountability for a Quality Educational System, Today and Tomorrow, replaces the Nebraska Performance Accountability System (NePAS) that ranked school and district performance based solely on state assessments and graduation rates.

Williams said the NePAS system would consider results based on the raw score, growth comparison within each grade level and student improvement in subsequent grades.

"And you were ranked in those different categories," he said. "But it was all based on test scores."

Williams said there's more to education than just test scores, so the new accountability assessment was established that took more into account. According to the AQuESTT website, the tenets under the new accountability system are "College and Career Ready; Assessment; Educator Effectiveness; Positive Partnerships, Relationships, and Student Success; Transitions; and Educational Opportunities and Access."

"So they're looking at more of a big picture view of what schools are doing instead of just test scores," Williams said. "Test scores are still a big part, but now there's more that is taken into account, such as students transitioning from sixth grade to seventh, going to a new building."

Williams said of the 249 school districts in Nebraska, only five of them received an "Excellent" rating in the first year of the AQuESTT system, which assessed the 2015-2016 school year.

"And we were one of the five," he said. "So it's a big deal."

Williams said as this year is his first as the superintendent for Potter-Dix Public Schools, he cannot take any credit for the ranking.

"It wasn't me, it was the prior administration," he said. "But the teachers, the kids and the community, they all worked hard for that and deserve to be recognized for their accomplishment. I joked with people that my job now is not to mess it up."

Williams said for smaller schools, test scores can "rollercoaster."

"Just because of the number of kids we have," he said. "We don't have a big enough statistical sample, so our scores can vary from year to year quite a bit just because we have different kids testing. Where if we have 10 fourth graders, somewhere like Sidney might have 150. They have a big enough sample where they're not going to have the peaks and valleys we do. They might move some, but not dramatically.

"So for us, are we going to be 'Excellent' next year? I hope so. But if we aren't, it's not because we dropped the ball."

To celebrate the ranking, students district-wide were invited to the Potter-Dix Jr./Sr. High School gymnasium Monday afternoon to enjoy cake, ice cream and a couple of inflatable bounce houses rented out for the school's post-prom activities.

"We've chipped in on the cost of that to keep them here so kids could play on them," Williams said. "Just a fun time during the last part of the day to say 'good job' and 'congratulations.'"

Students were also provided t-shirts commemorating their accomplishment.


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