The Nebraska Department of Education (NDE), comprised of the State Board of Education and Commissioner of Education, is constitutionally charged with the general supervision and administration of the school system in the State of Nebraska (Nebraska Constitution, Article VII, Sec. 2). The State Board of Education is also to serve as the policy-forming, planning, and evaluative body for the state school program (Neb. Rev. Stat. §79-301-(2)). The State Board strives to sets forth policy, planning, and evaluation systems to allow Nebraska’s school program to meet the diverse needs of its learners.
Beyond this authority, the State Board seeks to ensure the education system, including the Nebraska Department of Education, is taking charge of its roles and responsibilities to provide leadership and enhance support systems in the state. The clear cohesion of education systems is imperative for the good of Nebraska students and for the state to have a vibrant and economically successful future. It is upon this foundation that the framework of Accountability for a Quality Education System, Today and Tomorrow (AQuESTT) is implemented.
As part of its evaluative processes and duties, the State Board of Education leverages three separate, but interrelated systems to ensure equal operation of schools and equitable outcomes for all students: Approval, Accreditation, and Accountability.
- Approval denotes a school is meeting regulations and procedures outlined in rules promulgated by the State Board of Education and statutes outlining the legal operation, regulations, and procedures necessary to establish safe environments and access to educational opportunity for all students in public and nonpublic elementary and secondary schools (Neb. Rev. Stat. §79-703).
- Accreditation emphasizes quality of programming and a focus on continuous improvement. All public schools must be approved and accredited. (Neb. Rev. Stat. 79-703).
- Accountability uses student related outcomes (ex. Graduation rate, student growth and proficiency on assessments) to measure the performance of individual public schools and school districts. (Neb. Rev. Stat. 79-760.06).
The State Board intends for the AQuESTT to serve as a framework for approval, accreditation, and accountability. The tenets of AQuESTT fall within three broad domains: Leadership; Success, Access, and Support; and Teaching, Learning, and Serving. AQuESTT includes tenets designed to address:
Strong leaders, committed to achieving educational equity, are critical to the processes of approval, accreditation, accountability, and continuous improvement. Leaders, from school boards to superintendents, principals to teacher leaders, set a vision for achieving educational equity, which means students have meaningful access to the educational resources they need at the right moment, at the right level, and with the right intensity to not only reach high expectations for learning, but also to discover and explore their passions and make meaningful connections within the context of their postsecondary interests, careers, and civic lives. Leaders must possess the knowledge, skills, and mindset to systematize equity.
SUCCESS, ACCESS, AND SUPPORT DOMAIN
- Positive Partnerships, Relationships, and Student Success: Schools and districts implement best practices in student, family, and community engagement to enhance experiences and opportunities that are culturally inclusive and relevant for each student. Student success and engagement relies on positive partnerships and relationships to fundamentally improve the outcomes for each student, school, district, and community.
- Educational Opportunities and Access: Each student has access to effective, comprehensive, and continuous learning opportunities that prepare ongoing school success, postsecondary education, and career goals.
- Transitions: Quality educational opportunities focus on effective supports and high quality collaborations for each student transitioning within, into, and between grade levels, programs, schools, districts, postsecondary education, and careers.
TEACHING, LEARNING, AND SERVING DOMAIN
- Student Achievement and Growth: A balanced assessment system that includes results from multiple sources is used to measure student growth and achievement of Nebraska’s college and career ready standards. A balanced assessment system is a necessary part of the instructional process to improve achievement and growth for each student.
- Effective Educators: Each student is engaged by effective educators throughout their learning experiences, such that schools and districts develop effective teachers and school leaders who establish a culture of success.
- Postsecondary, Career, and Civic Readiness: Each student, upon high school graduation, is prepared for success in postsecondary education, career, and life pursuits.
The State Board believes in the integration of the components of approval, accreditation, and accountability into a system of continuous improvement and more intensive school improvement. This cohesive, streamlined system is critical for the benefit of Nebraska students and for the state to have a vibrant and economically successful future. In the operationalization of this differentiated accountability and support system, the NDE can better deliver upon the commitment for educational equity.
The AQuESTT accountability system will annually recognize and classify schools and districts (Neb. Rev. Stat. §79-760.06) as Excellent, Great, Good, and Needs Support for Improvement based on identified statutory criteria, and other evidence of activities of schools and districts to improve student achievement. The accountability system should be fair, transparent, sensitive to change, and be able to support improvement in schools, districts, and the Nebraska Department of Education to increase achievement for all Nebraska Students.