Every year public schools are graded and ranked based upon statewide test scores. While some schools may dread the State of Schools report, Neligh-Oakdale and Elgin have some of the top scores in the state in several indicators.
Of the 249 public school districts in Nebraska, Neligh-Oakdale ranks third for growth in mathematics and 27th for growth in reading from the Nebraska Performance Accountability (NePAS) test.
“We are very proud of our students, faculty and staff,” Superintendent Kimberly Lingenfelter said. “Our students have shown amazing growth in core curriculum. Everyone is working hard, and these results are a testament that the plans of improvement implemented by administrators and faculty are having a positive outcome.”
Rankings, which were embargoed for public release until 10 a.m. today, were first shared with administrators and then made available to media on Wednesday. Growth compares the same students from year to year while improvement is this year’s classes compared to last year’s classes.
“In bigger schools, it may be fine to compare the 2012-13 third-graders to the 2013-14 third-graders, but that’s not appropriate for a school our size,” Lingenfelter said. “One class may have more challenges than the next year’s class. That’s why we concentrate on growth. Growth shows us how the same students are progressing year to year.”
Lingenfelter said Neligh-Oakdale improved in 26 of the 32 areas when comparing results from the last two years. She said elementary grew in all three indicators (reading, math, science) but she added that writing will continue to be a target area for 2014-15. Lingenfelter said junior high made “amazing progress” in all three math indicators and will continue to work on reading. In high school, Lingenfelter highlighted growth in reading and said math remains a target area.
In overall ranking, Elgin improved from 63rd in the state in science to 11th. The school saw status decreases in both reading (6th to 65th) and math (13th to 116th) but remains in the top half of the state in both.
Principal Greg Wemhoff agreed with Lingenfelter’s earlier statement and said in a small school having just two or three students not perform well can drop an average from 100 percent to 70-80 percent, depending on class size. In a large school, that’s the same percentage of 20-30 students out of 100 not performing well.
“At Elgin Public, we are once again performing well on the yearly indicators and have some areas to work on as well. Our elementary reading scores are up substantially from two years ago, our science has taken a big step as well,” Wemhoff said. “Junior high math scores are a concern, as are our high school reading, but our reading and math in our other two age group areas are quite good.”
Wemhoff said the Elgin Board of Education, administration and staff are all concerned with improvement and growth and want to be in the top third of districts in the state in all areas.
“In 8 out of the 11 areas scored, we achieve that goal. In our 3rd-grade through 12th-grade results, we made our lofty goal in two of the three areas with the one only missing by about 35 schools,” Wemhoff said. “Science was our highest 3-12 area with a rank of 11th and our greatest areas of improvement were in 6-12 grade science and 3-5 grade math.”
Nebraska Unified District #1 (Clearwater-Orchard-Verdigre) improved its rank in science, going from 201st in the state to 167th. Science improved in the district from 212th to 74th, moving the Cyclones in the top third of the state. Reading also grew from 151st to 105th district-wide.
Elkhorn Valley’s math growth rank went from 147th to 97th while reading improvement increased from 104th to 67th. Overall, the Falcons’ reading status rank went from 202nd to 167th.
The rankings in status, growth and improvement for Antelope County schools is shown in the graphic at the top of the page.
Adequate Yearly Progress
Also on the report card is the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) by each school, a controversial labeling system that Nebraska Commissioner of Education Matthew Blomstedt publicly stated that he disagrees with due to the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act requiring 100 percent of students being proficient by 2013-14.
“According to the NCLB rules, every student - regardless of disabilities, English language proficiency or other life-impacting circumstances - must be proficient in reading and math as measure be state assessments,” Blomstedt said. “Because of this unrealistic goal, a number of Nebraska schools will be mislabeled as ‘Not Met’ or ‘In Need of Improvement.’ ”
Under NCLB, if a school has missed the State AYP goals in the same subject and grade span for two or more consecutive years, the school is considered to be in School Improvement. If a district has missed the State AYP goals in the same subject at all grade spans for two or more consecutive years, the district is considered to be in School Improvement. NCLB consequences apply only to schools and districts that have Title I programs.
Nebraska Unified District #1 and Elkhorn Valley are the only Antelope County schools on the school improvement list. Clearwater-Orchard was categorized as “Not Met, Improvement Shown” and Elkhorn Valley was listed as “Not Met.” Both Elgin and Neligh-Oakdale received “Not Met” status for 2013-14.
Commissioner Blomstedt said he does not agree with those labels.
“The Nebraska Department of Education does not agree with the current federal policy. I do not believe that all of our schools are low performing. In fact the U.S. Department of Education has granted waivers from the unrealistic expectations of NCLB,” Blomstedt said. “Common sense tells us that one child in one grade in one subject area scoring just below a ‘proficiency cut score’ should not brand an entire school community as failing. Yet that is exactly what has happened under NCLB. As a result of this faulty logic, some schools or district in Nebraska have not met the NCLB requirement for the 2013-14 school year.”
Read the full press release from Commissioner Blomstedt