State rates Norfolk school district as ‘good’

December 23, 2018

The Nebraska Department of Education released the latest performance assessments of school districts in the state with a system designed to provide a broader perspective than just test scores.

For the 2017-18 school year, the Norfolk Public Schools district received a classification of “good.”

Each school district received an individual classification of “excellent,” “great,” “good” or “needs improvement” based on a Nebraska Department of Education accountability system, said Beth Nelson, Norfolk’s director of teaching and learning.

The system — titled “Accountability for a Quality Education System, Today and Tomorrow” — rates schools on six tenets: positive partnerships; relationships and successes; transitions; educational opportunities and access; college, career and civic ready; assessment; and educator effectiveness.

“I think the intent is to really get away from solely categorizing schools based on how well kids do on assessments ... because schools involve so many other things,” Nelson said.

The report shows the district what it’s doing well and what it can focus on improving. Highlights include the district’s graduation rate and student improvement on statewide assessments, notably by English Language Learner students, Nelson said.

An area Norfolk will continue to focus on, she said, is attendance rates. The district reported attendance rates of 95 percent in the previous school year, which is one percentage point greater than the state average and the same as similar districts.

Test scores do continue to be a large factor in the statewide assessments, Nelson said. Overall, Norfolk reported 53.37 percent proficient scores, which came close to the “great” status baseline of 54 percent.

Both test scores and the additional tenets are important for educators to consider, Nelson said.

“Norfolk Public Schools’ overall percent proficiency is not as high as we’d like, but NPS teachers will continue to work deliberately to create a guaranteed and viable curriculum that teaches and assesses students at an appropriate rigor level in each content area and grade level,” she said.

The district defines that “guaranteed and viable curriculum” as making sure educators work together to prioritize standards for students as they advance through grade levels.

“Guaranteed would mean we’re going to work and do our best as educators to assure that we get kids educated in those priority standards,” she said. “And viable means we’re not going to pick so many that we can’t get it done.”

She said the statewide standards give district educators a higher bar to strive for. The current Nebraska Department of Education system was put in place just last academic year.

Another recent change in state standards was with the American College Test, the frequently taken college entrance exam. Previously, college-bound students would be the majority of test-takers, but a new state mandate requires all students to take the ACT.

Dr. Jami Jo Thompson, Norfolk superintendent, said the district would respond to the new standards.

“We will continue to increase the rigor and relevance of our curriculum and instruction in order to ensure our students are prepared to pursue their goals for the future,” Thompson said.

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