2014-2015 State of the Schools Report
A Report on Nebraska Public Schools

Welcome to the 2014-2015 State of the Schools Report.

The annual State of the Schools Report provides information and data about Nebraska public schools and their students.

New highlights include the performance of student groups by race, ethnicity, poverty, special education and English Language Learners. The performance of all students by school building and district in reading, mathematics, writing and science was released earlier. The new disaggregated data show improvement in reading and mathematics scores for, overall, all groups of students.

The State of the Schools Report also includes federal accountability decisions under No Child Left Behind. The Nebraska Department of Education does not agree with the current outdated federal policy. The federal expectation of 100 percent of our students scoring proficient in reading and math is unrealistic. I do not believe that all of our schools are low performing. Common sense tells us that one child in one grade in one subject area scoring just below a "proficiency cut score" schould not brand an entire school as failing. As a result of this faulty logic, a number of Nebraska schools have been unfairly labeled as Not Met or In Need of Improvement. Please see my September 28, 2015, letter to Nebraska school superintendents for more information.

In the meantime, while these results are included in the State of the Schools Report as required under federal law, Nebraska's emphasis is on the state's new accountability system called Accountability for a Quality Education System, Today and Tomorrow or AQuESTT.

Under AQuESTT, Nebraska public schools and districts will be classified in one of four performance levels with the goal of supporting and rewarding continuous school improvement for every student, school and educator.

AQuESTT goes beyond the accountability systems of the past to establish a broader, bolder and better system that focuses on every student every day.

Six tenets are at the core of AQuESTT: 1) Student Success and Access 2) Transitions 3) Educational Opportunities and Access 4) College and Career Ready 5) Assessment and, 6) Educator Effectiveness. For detailed information on AQuESTT and these tenets, see http://aquestt.com

While AQuESTT results are not included in the State of the Schools Report, data found in this report will be a key component of AQuESTT classifications, which will be released tentatively in early December.

How is AQuESTT different? The state's previous system relied solely on ranking public school and district performance on state assessments and graduation rates. AQuESTT integrates components of accountability, including performance on state assessments and graduation rates as well as school and district accreditation, college and career ready education and the effective use of data into a system.

Nebraska's overarching goal is continuous school improvement to ensure that our students are college and career ready when they graduate from high school and successful at work, in the military and/or in college.

This report and AQuESTT are intended to inform educators, parents, community leaders and policymakers about our education system and to provide data needed for sound decision-making.

As you review data about your school and district, please note that comprehensive information and multiple measures are critical to sound decision making. Judging a school, district or a student based on any one measure or factor is discouraged.

As always, your school officials can best explain their data and how it applies to their district. Local school officials also are your best source of information about the needs of students in your community.

I encourage parents to talk to their child's teachers who are most knowledgeable about their performance.

Thank you,

Matt Blomstedt
Commissioner of Education

State Board of Education
      Lillie Larsen, District 1
      Glen Flint, District 2
      Rachel Wise, District 3
      John Witzel, District 4
      Patricia Timm, District 5
      Maureen Nickels, District 6
      Molly O'Holleran, District 7
      Patrick McPherson, District 8
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This activity is supported, in part, by funds from Section 6111 (h) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.

It is the policy of the Nebraska Department of Education not to discriminate on the basis of gender, disability, race, color, religion, marital status, age, national origin or genetic information in its education programs, administration, policies, employment or other agency programs.