McCook Public Schools earn 'great' ranking

Friday, January 18, 2019

McCOOK, Neb. — The McCook School district is in good company when it comes to school rankings.

Millard West in Omaha, Neb., and McCook High School, were initially classified by the Nebraska Department of Education as “great” and are eligible for an upwards adjustment, in the statewide accountability system, AQuESTT, (Accountability for a Quality Education System, Today and Tomorrow), said Superintendent Grant Norgaard at the regular McCook Board of Education meeting Monday. Classifications were released Dec. 21 with 104 schools eligible for an upwards adjustment of classification.

Under QAuESTT, the NDE annually ranks schools and districts in four categories: Excellent, Great, Good and Needs Improvement. Schools used to be ranked numerically but the state legislature mandated in 2014 a different formula of accountability.

Education Commissioner Matt Blomstedt said in 2015 that the new system goes beyond just using test scores to judge school performance, as test scores typically reflect the poverty level of the school.

Instead, test scores as well as other factors, such as attendance rates, after-school programs and teaching procedures, are used in the classification.

MHS, McCook Junior High and Central Elementary and McCook Elementary were all classified as “great,” with MHS, MJH and Central being eligible to be adjusted to “excellent.” Schools eligible for an upward classification were required to submitted material to the state for review and final determination.

“Even if we don’t get excellent, it’s still an honor to be looked at,” Norgaard said Monday night.

The McCook School district, also ranked as “great,” is improving, he continued, citing increased graduation rates, from 89 percent five years ago to 93 percent last year.

Schools in the state that were designated as “Needs Improvement” are not bad schools, he clarified, but are schools dealing with difficult situations, such as high rates of poverty, sometimes as high as 85 to 90 percent, as well as a high number of students with English as a second language.

“It’s a tough scenario…sometimes they have the hardest working teachers out there,” Norgaard said.

Three schools in the Needs improvement classification have been designated as priority schools and received professional development, coaching, and new instructional materials. Those schools are Schuyler Central High School; Loup County Elementary School in Taylor; and Santee Middle School in Niobrara, Neb.

As far as assessment scores, Norgaard said that scores were high despite new tests last year. He gave board members a draft of the “district report card” he is compiling, to be sent to parents and patrons in the near future, that outlines McCook Public Schools scores by each grade.

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