This is the year of school accountability in Nebraska.
Nebraska public schools have worked hard to meet two sets of expectations. One set of expectations is our state system of accountability. The other is federal accountability.
The two systems are different, the goals are different and the expectations are different.
From our state accountability system, you will learn how school districts are rated on the quality of the assessments they use to measure student learning and how districts are rated on the performance of their students. The state system of accountability was designed to help schools improve.
Over the past three years, the percentage of school districts receiving high ratings has increased significantly. This year more than 88 percent of our school districts received a Good, Very Good or Exemplary rating on the quality of their assessments and more than 96 percent received one of those three high ratings on the performance of their students.
Under the federal accountability system, you will learn how groups of students are doing. In the federal No Child Left Behind system, the groups of students are: all students, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian or Pacific Islander, White not Hispanic, Black not Hispanic and Hispanic as well as students receiving special education, learning English for the first time and students from low-income families.
Federal school accountability is complex and, more importantly, its design does not fit Nebraska. It also can easily be misunderstood. For example, to be held accountable under the federal system, school buildings and school districts must have at least 30 students in each of the groups for data to be reliable. In addition to the 30-student requirement, the starting points for determining whether students are proficient on state reading, mathematics and writing standards are different from state to state. In Nebraska, our starting points are high. In some states, 14 percent of their students are required to reach the state goal for proficiency. One state has the highest known starting point at 80 percent. For Nebraska, our starting points for student performance are between 61 percent and 66 percent.
For a school building or a school district to meet federal accountability, each of the groups of students must meet all target goals for:
- High school graduation rate
- Assessment quality
- Student participation
If one group of students misses one target goal, the school is considered in “need of improvement” under federal accountability.
While the results for Nebraska schools are similar to those reported in other states and better than some, the accountability reports show that Nebraska school buildings and school districts must continue to work hard at helping all students achieve at high levels. The Nebraska Department of Education will provide assistance to those schools that need to improve.
The primary factors that affect student learning are poverty, language skills and mobility -- not race and ethnicity. While the data will show that some groups of students are better, or worse, than others, it is unfair and inaccurate to give anyone the impression that race and ethnicity are factors in student learning.
This State of the Schools Report displays school district and individual school building data in an easy to read format. We encourage you to take time to study the 2002-2003 report and to learn about your schools. We also encourage you to use that information to engage your school administrators, teachers and community in a discussion about education in your local schools.