Scores on the statewide tests edged up at most area schools last year. The Nebraska Department of Education released the results of the Nebraska Accountability Statewide Assessments, which students took last spring.
Schools in the northern Panhandle compare favorably with the statewide averages, released last week. As a whole, 80 percent of all students at all grade levels met or exceeded the state standards in reading, and 72 percent did the same in math, science and writing.
The data from the tests will be used in the state’s first-ever Accountability for a Quality Education System, Today and Tomorrow (AQuESTT) rankings. Those rankings will be available in December and will classify districts into four levels, ranging from fair to excellent. In addition to the assessment results, the state will survey schools for evidence of programs that support student success through school partnerships, that help students transition between grades, schools and programs, that provide students access to comprehensive instructional opportunities, that help prepare students for college and careers, that use multiple assessments to measure learning and that support educator effectiveness.
“AQuESTT is a system focused on school improvement, not test scores from a single year,” said Education Commissioner Matt Blomstedt in a news release accompanying the assessment results.
Trend data statewide shows that the number of student proficient in mat has increased by 9 percent over the last five years, while science proficiency increased by 5 percent in four years and writing proficiency increased by 4 percent over three years.
“Generally, we are seeing not only an increase in the percentage of students proficient on standards but also an increase in the percentage of students exceeding the standards,” Blomstedt said. “That means Nebraska teachers are successfully increasing their students learning and knowledge of the standards, in general, at all grade levels.”
In Chadron, only four areas returned results that indicated a quarter or more of the students tested below standards. Twenty-five percent of the grade three math students were below standards, as were 30 percent of the grade seven math students, 33 percent of the grade 11 math students and 30 percent of the grade four writing students.
Eighty-nine percent of eighth graders either met or exceeded the standards in math, the highest percentage of proficient students on any test in Chadron. Chadron saw big strides in reading, with six out of seven grade levels reporting increases in proficiency. The number of sixth graders meeting or exceeding standards in that subject jumped by 21 percentage points; in eighth grade that figure was 19 percentage points. Across all grade levels in reading, Chadron had more than one-quarter of its students exceeding standards, and in some cases saw that percentage nearing the 50 percent mark.
Crawford, once deemed one of the worst performing schools in the state, also showed improvement in several areas. Superintendent Richard Taedter said he is pleased that his students exceeded the state averages in 10 testing categories for the second consecutive year, compared to a few years ago when the school out-performed the state average in only two categories.
Junior high math is still a weak spot at the school, however. Fifty-five percent of fifth graders, 44 percent of seventh graders and 47 percent of eighth graders tested below standards in the subject. Taedter said the school has implemented an intervention program and has what he believes is a strong curriculum for the subject. Those two things, combined with a new math teacher this year, should help the district turn a corner when it comes to that testing area.
Eighty-three percent of eighth graders also tested below standards on the writing test.
On the more positive side, Crawford placed the majority of its students in the exceeded category in several areas. Sixty-two percent of sixth graders, for example, exceeded the reading standards. The school had several testing areas with 25 percent or more of its students in the exceeded range.
Many of Sioux County’s and Hay Springs’ results are masked from the public due to the small number of students being tested. In Sioux County, Superintendent Dr. Brett Gies said the high school is proficient in all subject areas, and at the elementary level, proficiency is typically in the 80th percentile. Still, with such a small population, Gies said he won’t be satisfied until every student is meeting or exceeding the standards.
The district also beats the state average on ACT scores, with students on average scoring two to three points higher.
“Our kids are graduating career and college ready,” Gies said.