LPS classified “great” school district In new state accountability system

Lincoln Public Schools has been classified as a “3 – great” school district in a new Nebraska Department of Education accountability system that assigns a rating to the performance of schools and school districts across the state (at four levels, with 4 as the highest).

In the past, the bulk of a school’s classification was based on state assessments (NESA scores), but in the new system schools can also get credit for a variety of other factors that signify student improvement and growth, according to Sarah Salem, director of Continuous Improvement and Professional Learning at LPS. 

“The State Department of Education has worked hard to create a more meaningful system of accountability,” Salem said. “It will be another source of information for us to examine as we continuously monitor where our district is strong, and where we can make improvements.” 

This is the first year of the program so this is baseline information – and with a focus on improvement, the data will become more valuable over time as we identify trend lines, Salem pointed out. “We also need to remember this is only one indicator used to measure schools, but certainly not the only indicator to determine quality.  In fact, one of our most important measures is the day-to-day performance of each student."

The goal of the new system – called AQuESTT, Accountability for a Quality Education System Today and Tomorrow – is to create a “blueprint” for improving and giving educators better information about what works and what doesn’t, according to Nebraska Department of Education officials.

Rankings were released Friday by the Department of Education with possible performance levels for schools and school districts as: 4 (Excellent), 3 (Great), 2 (Good), and 1 (Needs Improvement). 

LPS had 13 schools receiving a 4/Excellent; 23 schools receiving a 3/Great; 17 schools receiving a 2/Good; and two schools receiving a 1/Needs Improvement.

The previous system, Nebraska Performance Accountability System (NePAS), 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, graduation, growth and improvement, and the effective use of data.

The determination for a school’s classification rating includes a variety of factors:

  • Performance on scores in NeSA, the Nebraska State Accountability assessments (scores released earlier this school year).
  • Improvement: Based on average state accountability scores over the last three years.
  • Growth: Based on the percentage of students at any given school who were present for the full year, and showed “growth” in reading or math scores, compared to the previous year.
  • Non-proficiency: Based on the percentage of students who took the state accountability tests who were ranked as “not proficient” over the last three years.
  • Participation: If you have low participation rates, it can lower your rating.
  • Graduation rate: A low graduation rate can limit your overall rating to a 3, 2 or 1.
  • School districts are also asked to fill out an electronic survey asking about policies, procedures and practices related to teaching and learning.

“It puts weight on the continuous improvement process in a good way,” said Matt Blomstedt, commissioner of Education for Nebraska.  “It’s a whole different conversation.”  He said the new system takes a broader, more holistic approach to evaluating how well schools are performing.

The Department of Education is also identifying the three lowest-performing schools in the state that will receive funding and support in developing individualized plans for improvement. 

In 2014, the Nebraska legislature enacted legislation requiring a new accountability system for public schools and districts.


AQuESTT Explanation Video

AQuESTT Presentation Slides