Scores show local students proficient in science, writing

A couple of grades dip below state average.

There is good news and room for improvement in evaluating state test results released last week for District 20.

Science scores for the benchmark grades of fourth and 11th graders were above the state average but below for eighth graders.

As districts transition into the NsEA (Nebraska State Accountability) test, students last winter and spring took the STARS (School-based, Teacher-led Assessment Reporting System) for the last time.

Last year’s local fourth graders were 100% proficient in the material in which they were tested, compared to the state average, while juniors scored 96.92% which was 10% higher than the state average of 86.84%.

Of the eighth graders, 85.71% were proficient compared to the state average of 90.27%.

For several years, Dist. 20 students, and others across the state, have written an essay based on a certain topic for the STARS writing test.

Under the NsEA system, it’s no different although junior high principal and curriculum director Ryan Groene said it will be scored differently next year.

While last year’s local eighth graders were well above the state average (89.69%), with 94.92%, fourth graders struggled.

On average, they scored 77.46%—which is below standards—and the state average of 89%.

Groene said he had no answer for the lower scores but noted that many variables come into play such as demographics (see separate box).

Transitioning from STARS assessments to the NsEA would only be a factor for math, reading and science—not necessarily for writing, he said.

The 77.46% for the fourth grade was below the state average but not below standards.

“We met standards for the fourth grade class because their overall score was 4.70,” Groene explained. “Any scale score above 3.99 meets standards.”

Nebraska districts have used STARS, where students are tested repeatedly, after the point of instruction until they understand the academic standard.

NsEA is a one-shot test and measures student ability on a single day.

Students also took NsEA tests last winter and spring in math and reading. Those results were released in August.

Local students have traditionally tested strong in writing, Groene said, adding that they also scored strong in the first NsEA math test.

Those results showed students, grades three through 11, above state scores with the exception of eighth grade.

To prepare students for tests, Groene said administrators and teachers review data throughout the school year and gain feedback from assessments.

“We pinpoint strengths and what we need to improve,” he explained. “Our teachers do a great job of embracing the data analysis process. They want to improve their instruction based on the data we get from student assessments.”

Next semester, students will take the NsEA test in science which is the last of all of the subjects to be tested under the new system for now.

Groene said the state doesn’t have enough money to fund a statewide NsEA test in social studies. However he said local social studies teachers will continue to align curriculum with NsEA social standards.

With the exception of fourth graders taking the NsEA writing test, all other tests will be taken online next year instead of with paper and pencil.

He added that sophomores last week took a PLAN—instead of the Iowa Testing of Basic Skills test—which is a precursor to the ACT.

PLAN is comprised of four multiple-choice tests in English, math, reading and science.

Groene said teachers are doing a good job of educating kids.

‘They do a lot of cool things,” he said. “I appreciate all the hard work they do as well as anyone in the state.”

Several local teachers are being trained to write sample questions for the NsEA test that will be available to districts who send teachers to be trained.

“Teachers can use those questions to create quizzes or tests based on different standards to prepare for NsEA,” Groene said.

This year’s test results can be viewed at

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