Kathy Kennedy of KLK Consulting, second from left, evaluates Shuyler Central High School, one of the State of Nebraska's designated low-performing "priority schools." Also pictured are, from left, president and chief consultant Kathy Kennedy, second from left, Assistant Principal Jim Kasik, Mark Brady of Educational Service Unit 7 and Shirley Vargas of the State Department of Education.

There is promising evidence in the latest batch of test scores that Nebraska’s strategy for improving struggling public schools may be doing some good.

On a small scale, anyway.

Proficiency on state assessments went up last year at two elementary schools where the state intervened: Loup County in Taylor and Druid Hill in Omaha.

At two other schools receiving state help, progress is harder to gauge.

At Santee Middle School in Niobrara, enrollment is so small that the Department of Education did not make public results from last spring’s state assessments. That’s typical when disclosure of data might allow the public to deduce the performance of individual students.

Schuyler Central High School is in just its first year of intervention, so there are no scores to compare.

Using test scores and other measures, the Nebraska Department of Education classifies public schools as excellent, great, good or needing improvement. Priority schools are identified as the lowest-performing “needs improvement” schools.

The state sends in an intervention team to diagnose what’s impeding achievement and write an improvement plan. KLK Consulting of Fayetteville, North Carolina, has helped write and implement the plans.

Loup County Elementary

Designated 2015

In new state performance ratings released in December, Loup County moved up two classes to “great,” based largely on a jump in English language arts proficiency.

English language arts: The percentage of students scoring proficient increased from 64 percent in 2016-17 to 80 percent last school year — the state average is 51 percent.

Math: 70 percent of students scored proficient, compared to the state’s 51 percent. The math test was new last year, so scores can’t be compared to previous years.

Science: Results are masked for small sample size.

The state also noted a reduction in absenteeism.

Druid Hill Elementary

Designated 2015/Delisted 2017

Scores were up at Druid Hill, but proficiency at the high-poverty school remains well below the state average.

English language arts: Proficiency increased from 22 percent in 2016-17 to 25 percent in 2017-18 — the state average is 51 percent.

Science: Proficiency increased from 34 to 37 percent — the state average is 68 percent.

Math: Proficiency was 25 percent, compared to the state’s 51 percent.

It remains classified a “needs improvement” school; however, that status is under review. It could be moved up to “good,” a decision expected this month when state officials evaluate its use of best practices, which are taken into account in addition to test scores.

It did not see a reduction in absenteeism, the state said.

Joe covers education for The World-Herald, focusing on pre-kindergarten through high school. Phone: 402-444-1077.

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