Omaha high schools stuck on low-achieving list

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November 8th, 2011

Omaha, NE – All seven high schools in the Omaha Public Schools district have made the unwelcome federal list of Persistently Lowest-Achieving Schools (PLAS) this year. The results were made public in a report released by the Nebraska Department of Education on Tuesday, and are based on 2010-2011 data.

Omaha’s Bryan High School was listed among the lowest-achieving in the state based on test scores. Based on graduation rates, Benson Magnet High School, Central High School, Omaha North Magnet High School, Omaha Northwest High School and Omaha South High School also made the list as Tier I schools. Burke High School is in a different stage of restructuring, and appeared as a Tier III school. The Tier system categorizes schools in stages of restructuring. Tier III schools are further along in the restructuring process than Tier I.

Central High School also made the low-achieving list this year. In an interview last month, Principal Keith Bigsby roundly rejected the label. (Photo courtesy Wikimedia)

The low-achieving list is a requirement of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2002. It was designed to identify schools that are consistently failing to meet federal standards of improvement, and force the lowest-achieving schools to dramatically restructure or lose federal funding.

Critics have argued those standards are unrealistic, and, nationwide, a swell of opposition has prompted a push to reform the law. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan agrees, and President Barack Obama has issued some waivers in the interim so schools don’t lose funding.

OPS spokesperson Luanne Nelson said the district did not apply for federal funding last year, because of the restructuring requirements, and private funds were raised to make up the difference. She said no decision has been made for this year, but the district will likely go the same route.

Also in the OPS district, nine middle schools and 28 elementary schools were listed. Lincoln High School was also listed, based on graduation rates. For a full list, click here.

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