School districts rated under new classification system

January 31, 2019

David City Public Schools was recently rated as Excellent and East Butler Public Schools as Good in the latest statewide assessment.

The Accountability for a Quality Education System, Today and Tomorrow, or AQuESTT, is a new assessment system The Nebraska Department of Education is using to look at the quality of public schools. Districts can receive one of four ratings: Excellent, Great, Good or Needs Improvement. These are based off of a district’s test scores, graduation rates, progress for English Learners and reduction in chronic absenteeism, among other things, that can indicate a school’s quality.

Of the 272 school districts in Nebraska, DCPS Superintendent Chad Denker said only 28 received an Excellent rating this year.

“We were surprised. I would have anticipated us getting a Good rating, not necessarily an Excellent rating,” Denker said. “I would like to take credit for that score, but it has nothing to do with me. Truly it’s our teachers.”

EBPS Superintendent Sam Stecher said the scores aren’t necessary reflective of a school’s quality, as the system is so new.

“The AQuESTT classification is a work in progress,” Stecher said. “I don’t think any of us know enough about AQuESTT and what those classifications mean to know what that really means.”

And Denker agrees. These rankings are subject to change over time as the system is refined. DSPS’s initial assessment was Great while EBPS’s was Good.

“I’m not sure anybody knows what that means yet,” Denker said. “While I’m excited that we got an Excellent rating, I would be more comfortable if it was something we sustained for three or four or five years ... It’s easier to become No. 1 than it is to stay No. 1. So while we’re excited that we have gotten to the Excellent rating, what do we need to do to sustain that? I think that’s what parents want to see, an Excellent rating every year and hopefully not a roller coaster.”

In response to DCPS’s Excellent rating, the district received a letter from Sen. Deb Fischer congratulating the district on the accomplishment.

“Which I thought was awfully nice of her,” Denker said of Fischer’s letter. “I’ve talked to her a few times when she’s been here in David City at different public forums. It’s just nice when they remember you and acknowledge the good things your school is doing.”

Here are some of the results of the assessment for the 2017-2018 school year as posted online at https://nep.education.ne.gov/.

*Evidence-Based Analysis: DSPS 109/120, EBPS 102/120

*Individual Score Growth: DSPS 76 percent, EBPS 73 percent

*Score Improvement: DSPS Yes, EBPS Yes

*Non-Proficiency Reduction: DSPS Yes, EBPS No

*Science Proficiency Status: DSPS 73 percent, EBPS 76 percent

*Science Score Improvement: DSPS No, EBPS No

*Chronic Absenteeism Reduction: DSPS No, EBPS No

Eric Schucht is a reporter for The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at eric.schucht@lee.net.