Nebraska Data Paints Incomplete Picture of School Success


January 17th, 2019

The Nebraska Department of Education released the Nebraska Education Profile at the end of 2018, rating state schools on a four-tier scale based on several categories of data. In a two-part series for NET Nebraska, Allison Mollenkamp shows how school success is a little more complicated than simply ratings.

“I’ll be honest with you. No, I don’t think it’s terribly useful because it doesn’t really tell you much,” said Leslie Eastman, director of assessment and evaluation for Lincoln Public Schools. “There are so many things that are mushed together to create those ratings and really without all of that detail, it’s hard to say, ‘What should I do?’”

Among things measured when ratings are considered are test scores. Schools across the state are working to increase these scores across the board, but while these scores can help to paint a picture of areas that need improvement, year-to-year variation in student bodies – particularly in smaller schools – can affect the ratings.

“If you have one kid in these small classes, these small schools, if you have one student who is a struggling learner, or a class that has maybe a higher special education population, or whatever it might be, it can really drop your percentage quick,” said Dana Wiseman, superintendent of Sutton Public Schools.

Schools are rated by the Department of Education as “excellent,” “great,” “good,” or “needs improvement.” For those falling in the latter category, changes are being made to improve future ratings, but more time is needed for results to show.

“Changes aren’t gonna happen overnight. We’re kind of working off of last year, you know, and so it takes a while for change to really, progress to really show from all of this change. It’s not just an overnight or semester thing. It takes a little bit,” said Tina Hanzel, principal of Cedar Bluffs Middle and High School.

Click here to read the first part of this story.

Click here to read the second part of this story.

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