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Morrill among districts rated as ‘needs improvement’ as state releases AQuESTT results

December 28, 2018

SCOTTSBLUFF — The Nebraska Department of Education released a statewide report card for schools Friday, Dec. 21. Area schools received ratings across the board.

State officials shared performance ratings with 244 districts and 1,110 schools after three years.

AQuESTT is an assessment tool the state uses to grade schools and districts based on data like test scores, graduation rates and attendance rates. While test scores remain a baseline for the classifications, the state also looked at improvements in test scores, chronic absenteeism, and progress of English language learners. This is the state’s first reclassification of schools since the system was introduced in 2015 and the focus is on growth, according to information released by the Department of Education.

From those findings, each school and district receives a rating of needs improvement, good, great or excellent. Those classifications are based heavily on state test scores. Since the initial ratings, the state standards have changed for English, mathematics and language arts. The data is a compilation of 2017-18 test scores and is available on the Nebraska Department of Education website. Included in the report is students’ test scores on the new math test with most students testing at a proficient level.

Results from this year’s assessments included Morrill Public Schools as in need of improvement. While Morrill’s report indicated a strong attendance rate, 93 percent, and graduation rate, 96 percent, the state’s labeling indicates areas where the district can improve. MPS was classified within the 156 schools and 24 districts in need of improvement. That number is up from 87 schools and 10 districts in 2015 and equates to one out of every seven schools across the state being rated as needing improvement.

For several area schools, the state assessment rated them as good: Alliance, Bayard, Gering, Kimball, and Scottsbluff.

Scottsbluff Superintendent Rick Myles said the district rating reflects well on staff members’ efforts to develop learning opportunities for all students.

“With this third consecutive graduation rate over 90 percent, we feel like we’ve reached a milestone that has now become a dependable expectation in Scottsbluff Schools,” said Myles. “Even more importantly, we are increasingly confident that that diploma is meaningful — our PK-12 academic programming and learning opportunities, top to bottom, are now of such remarkably high quality. Now, as I know our staff believes, we want this for 100 percent of our kids. We want to get even better and the hard work continues.”

Scottsbluff Public Schools received a four-year cohort graduation rate of 91.51 percent. That is the fourth consecutive year the district has had a graduation rate above 90 percent. The state average is 88.66 percent.

Based on the NDE release, 813 schools were rated as either good or great, adding Bridgeport and Banner schools into the mix. The number of schools rated as good dropped from 423 to 386 and the number of great classifications dipped from 473 to 427.

Excellent ratings were given to 12.7 percent of state schools, including Mitchell Public Schools.

“We are very proud of our students, staff, and community at Mitchell,” said Mitchell Superintendent Katherine Urbanek. “We are not in the business of measuring up against other districts, but we do feel as though celebrating the success of our students and staff is important and well-deserved.”

For schools and districts that received a “needs improvement” rating, the state will offer extra assistance to the schools that are the lowest performers.

The state is also using the information to identify the lowest-performing 5 percent of the Title I state schools, as per the new federal education law. The low-performing schools will qualify for additional federal Title I money, which includes a comprehensive needs assessment, improvement plan and resources for plan implementation. Under the new federal law, the state has set aside roughly $5 million for 27 schools classified as Comprehensive Support and Improvement due to the low performance or that have graduation rates at or below 67 percent.

While the report was made public last week, some schools are under review by the Department of Education, meaning classifications may change. Schools on the bubble between the classifications can submit evidence of their efforts to move up. There are 105 schools within that cutoff margin that could see an increase, but those increases in ratings will not become available until January.

To see more results or to learn about the results of other schools and districts in the state, visit http://nep.education.ne.gov/statedata.html.

lauren.brant@starherald.com

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