LINCOLN, Nebraska — Nebraska students showed improvement in this year's statewide math and science exams and held steady when it came to reading, according to preliminary results of the exams released Tuesday by the state Department of Education.
State Education Commissioner Matthew Blomstedt said Nebraska schools have shown solid gains in the last few years but that the assessments are only one measure of student progress. He said part of the improvement was likely due to teachers and students who have grown accustomed to the new state tests, which were phased in by subject starting in 2010.
The tests were rewritten after the U.S. Department of Education said Nebraska had failed to show that its local assessments measured student achievement under the No Child Left Behind Act. Since that time, the percentage of students in the state who met or exceeded standards has increased.
"Looking at improvement over time, I think this is a really good tale," Blomstedt said. "Once students and teachers understand what the goals are, they can continue to improve in their practice and growth."
The Nebraska Department of Education said 71 percent of students met or exceeded the state's proficiency standards for math this year, up from 69 percent the prior year. It said 72 percent of students met or exceeded science standards, up from 70 percent last year. For reading, the percentage of students held steady at 77 percent.
The exams are designed to show schools which education strategies have worked and where students need to improve, Blomstedt said. The state needs to work with local districts to improve scores, and not just compile the data, he said.
He pointed to a new Nebraska law that will allow the state to send intervention teams into poorly performing schools.
About 157,000 students took this year's reading and math exams. Students in grades 5, 8 and 11 were tested in science. Some students also were given writing tests, but results were only released for fourth-graders because of computer and software problems that called into question the validity of the results. The fourth-graders took the exam with pencils and paper.
The state department will release its more detailed "State of the Schools" report later in the fall. The yearly scorecard provides a school-by-school breakdown of student achievement, including the progress of students by racial and income group. The department compiles test scores from each of the state's 249 public school districts.
Nebraska Department of Education, http://www.education.ne.gov/