Dramatic reduction in school testing scores under new standards

By  | 

LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) A dramatic reduction in Nebraska State Accountability test scores in English Language proficiency for 3rd through 8th graders is largely the result of new, higher standards, according to Department of Education Commissioner Matthew Blomstedt.

Blomstedt held a media briefing Friday, saying the change was expected, and he doesn't want parents or students to believe the reduced scores were an indication of a dramatic reduction in performance.

In 2016, 82% of students tested as proficient in the reading test, and 70% of students were proficient in writing.

Under the new standards, only about 50% of students in grades 3-8 tested as proficient in the “English Language Arts” test, which combines reading and writing.

NeSA tests in previous years gave scores of “below standards”, “meets standards”, and “exceeds standards” for separate reading and writing tests. But the new standards give scores of level 1 (highest) through level 3 (lowest) in “English Language Arts”, with those who score in Level 1 or Level 2 being considered proficient.

Because of the change in standards, the Department of Education said in a release Friday that they “cannot make comparisons between this year’s NeSA-ELA scores and any previous scores. This is a new baseline with high expectations for College and Career Readiness. There is really no comparison.”

Average scores in Mathematics and Science, where new standards have not yet been implemented, did not show dramatic change.

It was also the first year the state used ACT scores as the benchmark for 11th grade students. Preliminary results show 54% of students were scores as "on track" or above in English Language Arts, 51% in Math, and 55% in Science. Those percentages, too, were much lower than the proficiency numbers under last year's standards.

Blomstedt said they expected the change in proficiency numbers, and have been communicating the expectation with schools and parents.

He also said they expect scores to improve in coming years, as schools implement a new College and Career Ready curriculum in schools.