Change is in the Air!

Rachel Wise, District 3, Nebraska State Board of Education (December, 2015)

I can’t believe that I am writing about the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) again. However, this time it is good news! The United States Congress passed– through a bipartisan effort with an overwhelming majority in the House and the Senate– the reauthorization of ESEA which has been titled Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). On December 10th, President Obama signed it into law!

Granted, this bipartisan effort should have occurred in 2007, but better late than never. Nebraska schools are finally rid of the previous version of ESEA which was titled No Child Left Behind. For 15 years, states and local school districts were saddled with federal education law that left many schools and states behind! While ESSA may not be perfect, it is a good step for Nebraska schools and school districts. It puts the responsibility and accountability for education back in the hands of states and local school districts and, most importantly, local educators, who are better prepared to know how to improve schools and opportunities for all students.

Key priorities in ESSA that benefit Nebraska include: states remain in control of standards and assessments; states are given flexibility for developing and implementing state accountability systems; and, the lowest-performing schools still receive focused attention and support. The accountability stars finally may be aligned for Nebraska. The passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act coincides with Nebraska’s roll out of our new accountability system, Accountability for a Quality Education System, Today and Tomorrow (AQuESTT).

At the December 4th State Board of Education meeting, the Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) released the accountability classifications of Nebraska schools and school districts. Under the new system, all public schools and districts are classified as Excellent, Great, Good or Needs Improvement. To find out the classification of any school or district in Nebraska or to learn more about AQuESTT, go to: www. . In addition, the State Board approved the Commissioner of Education’s recommendation for the identification of three priority schools. The priority schools were identified from a list of schools classified as Needs Improvement, those schools most in need of support to improve. NDE staff did an amazing job analyzing schools finding patterns among schools. They found that schools needing improvement fall into four primary types of schools. These are: schools with mixed poverty levels in small communities widely dispersed statewide; schools in small to mid-size communities with changing demographics; Native American schools; and, urban/metro schools with poverty levels higher than the state’s average. The three priority schools identified were Santee Middle School, Loup County Elementary School and Druid Hill Elementary School in Omaha. During the next few weeks, NDE will work with these three schools to assess their specific needs, develop action plans in partnership with the schools and identify support and intervention teams to work with the priority schools. These teams will help identify specific strategies to address student achievement needs and assist in the development of school specific plans focused on improving student achievement.

As I reflect on accountability and the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act, I am excited to be a part of education in Nebraska. I know that our local school boards, administrators and teachers will work with students, parents and communities to continue to improve educational opportunities and outcomes for Every Student Every Day!! Our new accountability system may not be perfect, but was developed with input from across Nebraska, and it will be improved with continuing input from across the state. It is an honor and a privilege to live in Nebraska and to serve Nebraskans. Nebraska may be nice, but we are also still “the good life,” and we know what is good for education in our state. St

This article represents my personal view, not that of the State Board of Education or my role as president. Feel free to contact me at Search the Nebraska Department of Education website at to learn more about education in our state.

Rachel Wise

Rachel Wise


About katcountryhub
I am a graduate of Northeast Community College with a degree in journalism. I am married to Jeff Gilliland. We have two grown children, Justin and Whitney and four grandchildren, Grayce, Grayhm, Charli and Penelope. I will be covering Lyons, Decatur, Bancroft and Rosalie and am hoping to expand my horizons as time progresses!

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