- Associated Press - Saturday, April 12, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Underperforming schools could soon be aided by a state intervention team, under a bill signed into law last week.

Gov. Dave Heineman signed the bill into law Wednesday, allowing the State Board of Education to designate up to three “priority schools” that will receive an intervention team to help the school address the issues affecting student achievement.

Speaker of the Legislature Greg Adams, who introduced the bill, said the bill is not about punishing schools.

“We just can’t stand back as a state anymore and say ‘We hope you fix this,’” Adams said.

The state board’s accountability data will be used to create a school performance and a district performance score. Starting with data from next school year, the lowest performing schools will be considered priority schools.

The state already has a system of tests to determine whether students are meeting the state’s standards, Adams said.

“The issue really is, OK once you have the test results, then what do you do with them? What’s the accountability?” he said.

The State Board of Education is developing the accountability system now, said Rachel Wise, president of the board.

“I think an accountability system helps to provide greater transparency around understanding student achievement and understanding student performance,” Wise said.

The first version of the system will rely on indicators the state already collects, such as graduation rates and assessments given to students in third through eighth grades and 11th grade, said Matthew Blomstedt, Nebraska commissioner of education.

The state hasn’t been using the data to draw conclusions about schools and which could benefit from extra support, Wise said. As it begins making use of the data, Wise said the board will have to decide how much weight to give the different rates and assessments.

School scores will be available to the public once they are complete, Wise said.

The three “priority schools” chosen from the accountability system will receive an intervention team with as many as five people. Once a school leaves the priority list, another school can be added.

Intervention teams could take on a variety of tasks, including efforts to reduce staff turnover or help boost support for students by parents or the larger community, Blomstedt said. The teams also could work to provide tutoring or other special student services, he said.

The plan is to have a partnership among the school, school district and the state with clear goals on what should be accomplished, Blomstedt said.

The intervention teams could include school district and state staff, or even an expert from out of state, Adams said.

It’s too early to say which schools might receive the priority designation. But the Legislature could expand the number of priority schools in the future, Adams said.

It may be even more important to look at schools that are on the bubble to step in and start making changes in those schools now, Adams said.

“I think it’s those marginal schools that we’ll be looking at,” he said.


The bill is LB438.

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