School maintains “good” rating from NDE

Justin Diep, Editor in Chief

The Nebraska Department of Education released its annual report card on schools and districts around the state in November.  BHS first received its good rating in the 2019-20 school year and maintained it since.

The NDE uses the state accountability system, Accountability for a Quality Education System Today or Tomorrow (AQuESTT) to classify schools and districts. AQuESTT has four different school classifications: Needs Support to Improve, Good, Great and Excellent.

The classifications are based on six tenets: Educational Opportunities and Access; Transitions; Positive Partnerships, Relationships and Success; Educator Effectiveness; Student Achievement and Growth; and Postsecondary, Career and Civic Readiness.

Overall, the Omaha Public Schools district received the rating Needs Support to Improve. Omaha Central High School was the only other high school in the district to receive a Good rating. The remaining established high schools within the district needs support to improve. Buena Vista and Westview High Schools were not rated because they opened in August 2022.

The district says they’re pleased to see that several hundred more students became proficient in English as well as increased proficiency in English Language Arts and math in elementary schools. They are monitoring declining reading and math levels in grades 6-8.

“We’ve been working on ensuring all of our classrooms have high-quality resources,” OPS Executive Director of School Improvement Susanne Cramer said at the Nov. 28 board meeting. “We’ve been supporting academic recovery through robust planning with summer school, with intersessions and with academic support and tutoring.”

Since Bryan was first rated Good, principal Dr. Rony Ortega has strived to get the school on the path to the great rating by improving hard data about the school such as ACT scores and graduation rates.

“What I think is going to be harder is for us to move from Good to Great because the difference between Good and Great is you have to show significant improvement in the hard data,” Ortega said. “Hard data is usually the hardest piece for schools to move. Whereas moving from needs improvement to good was not so much about the hard data but making sure that we had systems in place that aligned to those six tenets.”

Teachers have also noticed the effects of changes brought in to improve the school.

“The implantation of a stronger reading focus has also helped our scores improve,” English teacher Jill Stephenson said. “I think he’s (Ortega) improved this school vastly.”

The school also pushed an initiative this year to improve attendance by targeting the most chronically absent students. School leadership works with these students and their families to regularly check in with them and offer mentorship to make sure they are in the classroom.

“If we do those things, we can achieve that Great status,” Ortega said.  “And then obviously the end goal is Excellent. It’s just going to take a while to get there.”

The full Nebraska Education Profiles can be found here.