Grand Island Public Schools
123 South Webb Road
Grand Island, NE 68802
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GIPS growth in assessment scores 'validation' of strategic plan

Grand Island Public Schools delivered a message Friday about state assessment results with one key word: Growth.

“We are outpacing the state average for growth in nearly every area,” said Dr. Tawana Grover, GIPS Superintendent. “As we maintain this level of growth, we will soon surpass the state averages for proficiency.”

Highlighting the growth, GIPS announced their results at Shoemaker Elementary, a school who grew two levels of state AQuESTT classification, from Good all the way to the top ranking of Excellent.

“You could have decided to grow from Good to Great,” Grover told the Shoemaker students and staff. “But you decided to be Grand, and went all the way to Excellent. You are setting the example for all of Grand Island.”

In addition to Shoemaker, Seedling Mile also earned the Excellent classification, moving up one spot from last year’s Great ranking.

Lincoln Elementary and Starr Elementary both also jumped two spots, moving from Needs Improvement to Great. Engleman Elementary (Good to Great) grew one classification, as did Jefferson Elementary, Newell Elementary and Wasmer Elementary (Needs Improvement to Good), for a total of eight GIPS schools growing in classification.

Dr. Toni Palmer, GIPS Chief of Leadership and Learning, told the Shoemaker crowd the school and all of the district have plenty of room to continue growing.

“We are headed in the right direction, but we are not finished,” Palmer said.

The scores across the district are not surprising, mainly because GIPS does not use state assessment results alone to make decisions on how to improve.

“These are scores from tests taken in March of 2018,” said Dr. Amy Mancini, GIPS Director of Assessment and Accountability. “We didn’t wait nine months to make adjustments. We look at data constantly, both through assessments and teacher monitoring of students in class.”

The district’s overall numbers for proficiency in ELA, Math and Science are all currently below the state averages, though district leaders are confident this won’t be the case for long. Palmer said using the data to inform continuous school improvement actions is why GIPS has seen so much growth and improvement.

“We have goals to meet and we have a plan to meet them,” Palmer said. “Our district strategic plan, put forth by the Board of Education, lays out how we will continue to grow in proficiency at all levels.”

Each GIPS campus has a School Improvement Plan with goals aligned to the district plan and actions mapped out for improvement, Palmer said.

In all, 15 of 16 GIPS schools increased five points or more in one indicator - either improvement or growth - in at least one level or cohort. Improvement is considered an increase in the same grade year over year (third grade in 2018 compared to third grade in 2017). Growth is considered an increase from one grade to the next (fourth grade in 2018 compared to third grade in 2017).

Grover believes the success the district has seen this year is proof the plan is working.

“The growth and improvement gains are validation the plan is working,” Grover said. “The next steps for us are to double down on the strategies and district priorities that provided this growth. The Shoemaker and Lincoln examples are powerful reminders we can be successful by following the plan.”

In particular, the district leaders point to Lincoln Elementary’s fifth grade success. In Math, 67 percent of fifth grade students were proficient, compared to the GIPS average of 47 percent and state average of 50 percent. This same cohort, which had 13 percent of students proficient in ELA as fourth graders in 2017, grew to 33 percent proficient in 2018 as fifth graders.

Making the Lincoln growth even more remarkable is the fact 90 percent of the students in the cohort are considered high poverty. Their fifth grade Math proficiency was the highest for any school above 67 percent poverty in the state.

“What we see at Lincoln fifth grade is teachers and leaders who buy into the system and accept no excuses,” Grover said. “They look at data on individual students, they plan lessons directly based on the standards and they work together to push students to succeed - no matter the potential barriers to success. We couldn’t be more proud of the growth they are showing.”

The Nebraska Student-Centered Assessment System (NSCAS, pronounced “en-skass”) is a balanced, statewide assessment system that embodies Nebraska’s holistic view of students and helps them prepare for success in postsecondary education, career and civic life.

This is year two of the NSCAS ELA test, so there is a true apples-to-apples comparison for all grades, while this is year one of the NSCAS Math test, so there is no year-over-year comparison. The NSCAS Science test is only taken in grades 5 and 8, and will change its exam in 2021. The grade 11 state assessment is the ACT exam.

The state assessment data is all part of the AQuESTT classification system. AQuESTT has four tiers of classification: 4. Excellent; 3. Great; 2. Good; 1. Needs Improvement. Testing is not the only factor. Others include absenteeism, English language learner progress and graduation rates. Within testing, proficiency levels as well as growth and improvement factor in to classification.

"No matter the test, no matter the system," Grover said, "our commitment is to have students who thrive. This growth tells us we are moving in the right direction. If we continue to empower our educators, personalize learning for students, design our decisions around data and partner with our community, we will continue to see this growth and improvement. Our students will thrive."


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