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Nebraska releases school accountability data

Cheyenne County schools score 'Good' and above

 

The Nebraska Department of Education released the results of its new accountability model on Friday, and every school in Cheyenne County ranked "Good" or above.

AQuESTT – or accountability for a quality education system, today and tomorrow – was created following a bill passed by the state Legislature in 2014.

The program classifies each district and school in the state among four categories: excellent, great, good or needs improvement.

Six tenants are examined when determining classifications, including partnerships between schools, their communities and parents; transitions between grade levels and college or careers; educational opportunities; college and career readiness; assessments; and educator effectiveness.

During a media conference Friday afternoon, Nebraska Education Commissioner Matt Blomstedt said it was a momentous day. The State Board of Education has been working toward a point where it could more accurately classify schools, he said, and AQuESTT allows it to do so.

It's a "moral imperative" for the state to seek ways to ensure every student has the resources to be successful, he added.

Data collected in the process of completing the accountability model will help schools improve while providing baseline information about where they are at a particular point in time, Blomstedt said.

"We believe that schools in Nebraska are generally good," he said.

However, there are districts and buildings that need additional support – and AQuESTT will help identify those schools, he said.

"It's a unique moment in time," he said. "But a real step forward."

Mike Williams, Potter-Dix superintendent, said the new model is a good system for smaller districts.

"It incorporates more than test scores," he said. "And for schools the size of Potter-Dix, test scores can vary sometimes quite a bit from year to year just based on the number of students taking the test."

AQuESTT is more comprehensive than the previous system, he explained, and examines more than state assessment scores.

There are 1,130 schools in Nebraska and 245 school districts.

Overall, the Potter-Dix Public School District scored excellent; Sidney and Creek Valley public schools scored great; and Leyton Public Schools ranked good.

Williams said he is proud his district ranked well, and credited collaboration among teachers as part of its success.

"The school has made a concerted effort to provide that collaborative time for teachers, and I think we're seeing the benefits of that," he explained.

Looking to the future, he said an area the district hopes to focus on is career education.

"We want to talk with [students] and prepare them for the types of careers they may have after they get out of school," he said. "We need to try to educate our kids about what kinds of opportunities there are here in Western Nebraska and also what opportunities there are in general."

Sidney school superintendent Jay Ehler agreed that AQuESTT provides a broader picture of schools' successes.

"It gives us a little better view of not only the whole child but the whole educational process and also the community we're in," he said.

The district's overall ranking of great affirms what it's doing well, he explained.

"But, at the same time, there is one category higher than 'great' – which is 'excellent' – so we do have room to improve," Ehler said.

The entire administration team will look for areas to enhance, he said.

"And we've already started that process," Ehler added.

More information about AQuESTT and complete results can be found at: http://aquestt.com.

 

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