Secretary DeVos approves Nebraska’s plan to help struggling schools, cut achievement gaps

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos on Tuesday approved Nebraska’s plan to assist struggling schools and cut achievement gaps.

Every state is required to write a plan for how it will comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act, the federal law that replaced No Child Left Behind.

The secretary indicated that Nebraska’s plan complies with the law.

State officials can now turn to implementing it.

Nebraska Education Commissioner Matt Blomstedt said the state cleared “a significant hurdle.”

Under the plan, the Nebraska Department of Education will identify 25 to 30 high-poverty schools in need of improvement and steer federal resources to them.

Intervention will be more customized and less prescriptive than in the past, Blomstedt said.

“Everything that we’re doing in this particular plan are things that we believe will make a difference for schools,” he said. “And I’m not sure that was the reality between states generally and the federal government on No Child Left Behind.”

Nebraska will have to adhere to the plan going forward, though the state could seek amendments.

The law requires states to create a system to identify schools most in need of support and intervention.

The system Nebraska uses is called AQuESTT — Accountability for a Quality Education System, Today and Tomorrow. The state tracks various measures of school performance including academic achievement and progress on state tests, graduation rates, progress for English learners and chronic absenteeism.

Schools will be sorted annually into four classifications: excellent, great, good or needs improvement.

The state will continue to identify at least three struggling schools for priority status and state-funded intervention. But it will also identify 25 to 30 schools needing improvement, and they will be assisted through federal dollars.

The plan sets goals of increasing proficiency on state tests for every student subgroup. Over 10 years, the state aims to cut the number of nonproficient students in half.

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