New state assessment data shows room for improvement in LPS, across state

Scores show some schools, grade-levels are struggling with math and reading proficiency
Published: Nov. 23, 2022 at 7:58 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Facing a long, grueling pandemic, educators and administrators across the state knew the past two years would be bumpy.

“There’s going to be years of impacts that we’re going to have to unpack and unfold,” Matthew Blomstedt, the Nebraska Department of Education Commissioner, said during a press conference today. “And especially around the education of our students and knowing that there’s challenges that we’re facing when we were moving to safe environments or what we thought would be a safe environment in the midst of the pandemic. But moving and disrupting the education of our students.”

Blomstedt shared new statewide accountability classifications--based on statewide assessment data and metrics like district attendance.

It’s a mix of positives and negatives. The number of schools the NDE rates as “Needs Support to Improve” increased but so did the number of schools classified as “Excellent.”

Overall, statewide test scores--with 3rd through 8th graders taking a newly developed NSCAS assessment and juniors taking the ACT--slumped in reading and math compared to before the pandemic: 47% of Nebraska students are proficient in reading, and 46% are proficient in math. That’s sagged from 52% in both categories before the pandemic.

Lincoln Public Schools received a “Good” classification, down from a “Great” classification in 2019. Though, LPS questions the validity and comparability of the accountability rating, given that the majority comes from a new test’s scoring.

“Lincoln Public Schools does have some concerns with the validity of using that test in this way,” said Sarah Salem, director of LPS continuous improvement and professional learning. “We use national assessments such as map growth and the act, which give us a more holistic, what we feel like, quality picture of academics in Lincoln Public Schools.”

But LPS met or exceeded the state’s averages.

“I think you can tell by the data that our staff members rose to the challenge when you look at what was happening across the state,” Salem said.

One issue that’s plagued LPS and schools across the state has been attendance. At LPS, the number of students who missed more than 10 days of class between the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years went from 1,600 to over 2,000.

It’s an issue Salem said the district is working on.

“We hired additional staff to look at our attendance procedures and reach out to families and reach out to our community partners to help us,” Salem said. “That might be for one family transportation, for another family, it may be medical.”

There are clear challenges facing schools across the state, but officials in the NDE and at LPS are optimistic for education’s post-COVID future.

NDE is aiming to push more money toward early literacy.