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Testing in Nebraska: An Overview

A GreatSchools guide to standardized tests

By GreatSchools Staff

Although test results are only one measure of student achievement, they have become increasingly important in assessing student learning. In 2007-2008 Nebraska used the School-based Teacher-led Assessment and Reporting System (STARS) to measure student achievement in grades 3 through 8 and 11 in reading and math; in grades 4, 8 and 11 in writing; and in grades 4, 5, 8 and 11 in science. The STARS is a standards-based testing program that measures specific skills defined for each grade by the state of Nebraska.

The STARS program has its foundation in the classroom, and strives to promote school improvement and public accountability. Each school district is required to submit a district assessment plan. Districts are able to select, create and administer norm-referenced, standards-based or classroom-based assessments that match the state standards. In addition to assessing the subject areas required for annual reporting, districts participate in a statewide writing assessment that is regionally scored within the state.

The information provided on GreatSchools profiles is for the 2007-2008 school year.

How are the tests scored?

STARS results show the level of proficiency a student demonstrates in each of the subject areas tested. Students are rated at one of four performance levels: beginning, progressing, proficient and advanced. The goal is for all students to score at or above the proficient level.

Which results are included on GreatSchools profiles?

For each subject tested, the combined percentage of students scoring at or above the proficient level is displayed.

GreatSchools also displays subgroup results to show how different groups of students are scoring in comparison to the overall student population in a given grade and subject. These subgroups are identified by the Nebraska Department of Education; if there are fewer than 10 students in a particular group, data is not reported for that group.

Since separate school districts do not necessarily administer the same test, test results are most useful for comparing schools within the same district. GreatSchools does not have extensive data on test results in Nebraska due to the variation of the assessment system in this state.

Why do the tests matter?

Nebraska schools are rated on the student assessment results that they submit to the state. Each school receives a grade of exemplary, very good, good, needs improvement or unacceptable for each grade level tested. Consequences for students who score poorly are decided upon locally, and in some cases low scores might prevent promotion from one grade level to the next.

It is important to be aware of both your child's score on the assessments and the overall score for her school. If your child scores below the standards, contact his teacher to discuss getting additional assistance, and to find out how you can support your child's learning at home.

If the school's overall scores are low, ask what steps the school is taking to raise achievement levels for all students and what you as a parent can do to help. If your child is in a failing school, ask what your options are for obtaining supplemental services or for transferring to a higher-performing school.

A few parting words

Although test results can be an indicator of what's happening in the classroom, they don't tell you everything about the quality of a particular school. Always look at more than one measure when judging school performance and visit in person before making any final assessment.

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