Tekamah-Herman Participating in reVision Grant


By Brandon Lavaley, Tekamah-Herman Superintendent

Welcome back to the second semester! I hope everyone was able to have an enjoyable break and spend some important quality time with family. These next two months are two of the most important, yet most difficult months of the school year for teachers and students. Typically, the weather is not very accommodating, there tends to be a lot of sickness going around, and there aren’t any breaks built into the calendar. However, this is a final push toward our spring testing window for state assessments (NeSA) and local assessments (MAP). Please encourage your student to continue working as hard as they can to improve, make sure they are getting plenty of sleep and eating appropriately. Though these two months may seem long, they fly by and the fourth quarter will be upon us before we know it.

The other topic for this article is the reVISION grant in which Tekamah-Herman is participating. The reVISION process is an initiative in career and technical education to make sure students are graduating high school with the skills and characteristics necessary to be successful when they eventually are employed, whether right after high school or upon graduation from college. The grant is a cooperative effort among 10 schools in northeast Nebraska. The primary purpose is to have the businesses in each community become more engaged with the school district, providing opportunities to students and helping guide curriculum decisions.

The benefit of this process for the school district is preparing our students and giving them opportunities to be successful after high school. The benefit for businesses is working directly with students, potentially preparing them for careers that they can fill within that business. The benefit for the community is helping replace and potentially bring in new jobs, allowing the population to maintain or grow instead of the continual decline we see in rural Nebraska. Businesses in our area have received a mailed invitation to attend an informative, interactive meeting with Nebraska Department of Education. The planning this year will hopefully go toward implementation of programs next year. Your input is vital and I encourage you to RSVP and attend the meeting in Oakland on January 20th. If anyone has more questions about reVISION, please feel free to contact the school and speak with myself, Mr. Gross, or Ms. Nuss about reVISION and the benefits for our students.

Brandon Lavaley, Tekamah-Herman Superintendent

Brandon Lavaley, Tekamah-Herman Superintendent

Setting the Policy Story Straight!


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

After a busy October Nebraska State Board of Education meeting, I have narrowed my article for this month to three topics. Two relate to board policy and one involves the vision and direction for the State Board.

In 2010, the Nebraska State Board of Education first adopted a policy for Coordinated School Health and reaffirmed it in 2013. Why is the Coordinated School Health policy important? The premise for this policy is that health children learn better. The policy supports the Coordinated School Health approach, which coordinates services and emphasizes partnerships with the overarching goal of promoting the physical, social and cognitive development of children leading to increased academic success. The policy also states that preventable health risk behaviors formed in childhood persist into adulthood and are frequently interrelated. The policy states: The Nebraska Board of Education believes that the education system, in partnership with families and communities, should work together to address these health risk behaviors which, if unattended, can lead to serious health problems and disabilities that are costly on families and the entire state of Nebraska.

I sometimes think that email and the Internet are like the old telephone game where one person whispers something to another person and the message continues around a group of people until, at the end of the line, you find out if the message was the same when it started.

Recently, a legislative hearing was held to gather information about the risky behaviors of youth. This hearing led some individuals to believe that there would be a push in the Legislature to mandate a sex education curriculum. Yes, this hearing involved a great deal of discussion about teen pregnancies and the epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases in some parts of Nebraska. Yes, people testified passionately about the need for youth to receive medically accurate information about sex and sexually transmitted diseases and people testified that the Legislature should not mandate curriculum to address these issues. The Nebraska State Board of Education has not and in my opinion, will not mandate a sex education curriculum. As stated in our policy, the State Board encourages each school and district to develop, adopt and implement a comprehensive plan for coordinated school health.

Onto the next topic. The Nebraska State Board of Education adopted in October its policy on Accountability for a Quality Education System, Today and Tomorrow (AQuESTT). Since 1953, the State Board of Education has had the statutory responsibility of being the evaluation body for the state school program. This policy states: The State Board believes that the opportunity to integrate components of accountability, assessment, accreditation, career education and data into a system of school improvement and support is imperative for the good of Nebraska students and for the state to have a vibrant and economically successful future.

The third topic important to the future of education in Nebraska is a step the State Board has taken to start down the pathway of strategic planning. The Board is seeking a vendor to facilitate its strategic planning process. The selected vendor will be expected to facilitate a process that leads to the development of a shared vision for the State Board, the Nebraska Department of Education and the state education system. This process will include setting goals, indicators and measures for the State Board, NDE and the education system as a whole. I believe the strategic plan will benefit not only the State Board and the Nebraska Department of Education but also local school districts, their communities and provide citizens with a clearer understanding of the vision and priorities for education in Nebraska.

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 rachel.wise@nebraska.gov. Search the Nebraska Department of Education website at http://www.education.ne.gov to learn more about education in our state.

Rachel Wise

Rachel Wise

Need to Fix No Child Left Behind Nationally


Rachel Wise, District 3, Nebraska State Board of Education 

In March, I had an opportunity to attend the National Association of State Boards of Education’s board of directors meeting and legislative policy forum. As a member of the board of directors of this organization, I have had an opportunity to learn about educational issues around the country from my colleagues serving on state boards of education in other states. This month, I want to share some activities happening nationally as well as a few important initiatives underway “at home” here in Nebraska.

Nationally, the biggest issue is the need to fix or reauthorize a very broken Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) titled No Child Left Behind. I feel like a broken record, bringing this issue up every month! However, this month there is a glimmer of hope! It is anticipated that the House of Representatives will vote on its bill when Congress returns to Washington D. C, after its break. This week a draft bipartisan Senate bill has been made public. Apparently, the House and the Senate— from a bipartisan perspective—concur that ESEA needs to be reauthorized and that states should have greater control of education as they once did!

At the conference I attended a session on the effective use of digital educational resources and technology. Technology is significantly impacting our lives and education. Technology has changed my life! With the help of our great Nebraska public libraries and the application called OverDrive, I can use my phone to listen to a book while I am walking, cleaning the house or on the road. Technology can have a positive change in the classroom! Classroom teachers are engaging students with digital resources and a variety of applications. These are the new tools of the trade for teachers at all grade levels. An open educational resource is the term used to define a host of digital resources that teachers can access at low or no cost. Some states have created statewide networks to help teachers more easily access digital materials and resources. In Nebraska, we have resources and digital tools in place, but we need a statewide plan that allows educators easy access similar to the Nebraska OverDrive Libraries, which has expanded access to eBooks and audio books through the public library network. All Nebraska students, teachers and parents ought to have key educational resources at their fingertips through a few easy clicks on a phone or a tablet.

In April, the Nebraska State Board of Education released a draft of the new mathematics standards for public input. If you go to the Nebraska Department of Education website at the link below, you can review and provide comments on these draft standards. As Nebraskans, we should take pride in the process used to develop academic content standards. Nebraska teachers—with input from business, post-secondary education and the public—write the standards and then seek input in multiple ways, including the survey on the NDE website.

This month the board also reviewed the Nebraska Coordinated School Health program, and NDE’s role in providing support for schools in health education, human growth and development and sex education. This role involves providing resources and support to schools as they work to develop curriculum and strategies that work well for local school districts. While NDE provides resources and support, it is the responsibility of local school districts—with input from their communities and their locally-elected school boards —to address these sensitive and sometimes controversial issues within their individual communities. Each community has unique needs and challenges. Who knows better how to deal with those issues other than local community members and parents of children in the school district? One reason I ran for the State Board of Education was to become an advocate for a balance in the responsibilities between state and locally-elected school board members. The approach taken with the Nebraska Coordinated School Health program is balanced, respectful and has led to a meaningful process and practice.

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 rachel.wise@nebraska.gov. Search the Nebraska Department of Education website at www.education.ne.gov to learn more about education in our state.

Rachel Wise

Rachel Wise

Ushering in a New Era of Accountability


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

The State Board of Education moved forward this month on two very important steps for Nebraska schools. The first step was to authorize the Commissioner of Education to submit a waiver from certain No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requirements. NCLB is the accountability system imposed by federal law. I wrote an article last July on this topic urging the U. S. Congress to do its job and, with a new Congress in place, one would hope for action. However, in the case of reauthorizing ESEA—currently known as NCLB—there seems to be “talk” but still no real action!! Because Congress has not reauthorized ESEA—action that should have occurred in 2007—it is time to pursue the NCLB waiver. The Commissioner of Education will submit a waiver request to support our schools that are still saddled with an unrealistic federal accountability system and start negotiations with the U. S. Department of Education to allow Nebraska to establish a system of accountability that is clear, transparent and a system that benefits Nebraska’s children, families and communities!

Before I continue, I again urge you to contact your Congressional representatives to encourage bipartisan collaboration on the reauthorization of ESEA. We may be moving forward with the NCLB waiver request, but I believe my colleagues and I are on the same page—reauthorization of ESEA needs to occur!

The other important step taken by the State Board of Education was to approve four levels of school classification for Nebraska’s a new accountability system, AQuESTT—Accountability for a Quality Education System, Today and Tomorrow. AQuESTT was developed as a result of the Nebraska Quality Education Accountability Act, state legislation passed last year.

Under AQuESTT this first year, student growth and improvement on state tests as well as high school graduation rates, will be the primary indicators used to classify each school and district as Excellent, Great, Good or Needs Improvement. Within the Needs Improvement classification, the three schools in greatest need of assistance to improve will be designated as priority schools. The Nebraska Department of Education will develop intervention teams to help improve student achievement for priority schools and will share those strategies and interventions with all Nebraska schools.

The AQuESTT tenets and examples of possible future indicators include:

  • College and Career Readiness: rigorous curriculum and alignment with state standards as well as student participation in career education and/or college courses while in high school
  • Assessment: competency-based assessment or adaptive assessment
  • Educator Effectiveness: percent of classes taught by appropriately endorsed staff, a formal evaluation process to monitor and to ensure effective instruct
  • Positive Partnerships, Relationships and Student Success: engagement of families and communities as well as individual learning plans for students
  • Transitions: improvement in school attendance, reduction in dropout rates and improved achievement for highly mobile students
  • Educational Opportunities and Access: number of instructional units available to students, expanded enrichment opportunities, including programs before and after school and in the summer, access to early childhood programs and digital learning.

The State Board will continue to refine AQuESTT and seek additional input on from individuals across the state.

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 rachel.wise@nebraska.gov. Search the Nebraska Department of Education website at www.education.ne.gov to learn more about education in our state.

Rachel Wise

Rachel Wise

 

Every Student, Every Day!


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

Rachel Wise

Rachel Wise

Nebraska Education Commissioner Matt Blomstedt uses the mantra Every Student, Every Day! The State Board has begun a review of one of its major policies, G1, which addresses Nondiscrimination and Equal Educational Opportunity in Schools. This policy reflects the beliefs of the Commissioner and all State Board members. The review is intended to reaffirm our commitment to focusing on Every Student, Every Day. Diversity enriches our lives, our families and our communities. I embrace diversity friends, family members and coworkers with disabilities, from different races or cultures, differing religious views, and, yes, even differing political views! We are blessed to live in a country where we can have differing views but still share a common belief in freedom and democracy.

This month, the State Board spent quite a bit of time reviewing legislative bills that could directly or indirectly impact the Nebraska Department of Education and/or local school districts. During the review process, the Board determines whether to support, oppose or take a neutral position on legislative bills and resolutions. Last year, the Board spent quite a bit of time on proposed legislation which would have had a significant impact on “local control.” While that proposal did not move forward, a very similar bill is back this year. Legislative Bill 617 which was introduced by Sen. Tyson Larson of O’Neill, has a few good provisions but a requirement to retain 3rd graders not reading at “grade level” is quite disconcerting. The state should not make decisions about retention! That important decision should be a local decision between parents and teachers. Local school boards should make important decisions about the needs of the children they serve and determine retention practices. Do I think kids should be reading by 3rd grade? Yes! Do I know there are unique situations that affect children’s reading children who have disabilities or children whose first language is not English? Yes! But, most importantly, parents and teachers need to make decisions about retentionnot the Legislature!! The State Board voted to oppose LB 617. I believe local control of public education is an important value that we need to maintain. We elect local leaders to make the important decisions and, yes, sometimes difficult decisions, regarding educational opportunities and needs within our local communities.

The State Board of Education also took a major step toward implementing a new quality and accountability system in Nebraska. The new system, Accountability Quality Education System Today and Tomorrow (AQuESTT), was incorporated into Rule 10. To be accredited, public schools must meet Rule 10 requirements, so building AQuESTT and the accountability requirements into the rule appeared to be the logical step. Under AQuESTT, schools will be classified and held accountable for student achievement to keep the focus of schools on Every Student, Every Day!

Finally, the State Board has two study committees working to provide pertinent information and direction for Early Childhood Education and Career & Technical Education. Pat Timm of Beatrice chairs the Early Childhood Education study committee. John Witzel of Papillion chairs the Career & Tech Ed study committee. In an upcoming article I will highlight the preliminary recommendations of these two very important committees. 

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 rachel.wise@nebraska.gov. Search the Nebraska Department of Education website at www.education.ne.gov to learn more about education in our state.

 

 

A Time for Optimism


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

Nebraska State Board of Education President Rachel Wise congratulated the school and citizens on their new addition. Photo Credit/Denise Gilliland, Editor and Chief, Kat Country Hub.

Nebraska State Board of Education President Rachel Wise congratulated the school and citizens on their new addition. Photo Credit/Denise Gilliland, Editor and Chief, Kat Country Hub.

As we enter 2015 I find myself being very optimistic about the year ahead as it relates to meeting the educational needs of Nebraska’s children. My optimism begins with the possibility of a vision and leadership for education coming from the federal level for education finally!! As I previously mentioned, the primary federal law guiding education is the Elementary and Secondary Education Act or ESEA titled No Child Left Behind or NCLB when voted into law in 2000. This law should have been reauthorized in 2007. For the past eight years we have been caught between a “rock and a hard spot” with this outdated and, in my opinion, poorly written legislation.

Most parents, community leaders and educators concur: accountability is needed and improved student achievement is needed. While NCLB strengthened the focus on achievement, it set unrealistic student achievement expectations and narrowed the focus on testing, making tests the primary measure for student achievement and accountability. Most states have requested waivers or “flexibility” from the federally-defined accountability system. Nebraska Department of Education staff are currently researching the possibility of a waiver for Nebraska, however, we might not need a waiver. Congress may go to work!! Yes, you read that statement correctly: Congress may go to work on the reauthorization of the ESEA this spring!! Optimistically, reauthorization will once again focus on supporting state and local education efforts! Keep your fingers crossed as we wait to see if this optimism becomes a reality and Congress goes to work!

Two items on the Nebraska State Board of Education agenda January 8th and 9th focused on Rule 11 and Legislative Resolution 517. Rule 11, which sets school district practices and responsibilities for prekindergarten programs, is being revised. During a discussion on those revisions, Board members had several questions and determined an in-depth review by a Board committee was needed before the draft rule goes out for a public hearing. I will write more about these changes in the near future. Legislative Resolution 517 recommends changes in the training and competencies of educational interpreters for deaf and hard of hearing students. This is another important topic that the Board will continue to review and gather input on over the next few weeks.

Finally, it was an honor and privilege to be elected by my peers and to serve as president of the Nebraska State Board of Education for 2015. This will be my second year serving as president, and I am excited to be a part of the leadership team with my colleague Lillie Larsen, who was elected vice president. My colleagues and I will work diligently and passionately with state and local policy makers, educators, parents and students to ensure that Nebraska is at the top of the nation in how we serve and educate our most important and precious resource our children.

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 rachel.wise@nebraska.gov. Search the Nebraska Department of Education website at www.education.ne.gov to learn more about education in our state.

The End and the Middle of the Year


Rachel Wise, District 3, Nebraska State Board of Education (December, 2014)

As a retired educator, when I think about a calendar, I think about December being halfway through the year, rather than the end of the year. It is difficult to make a calendar mind-shift after so many years of thinking that the most important calendar is a school calendar! In the world of “elected officials” the calendar follows the rest of the world, and December is the end of the year and January begins a New Year. As the end of this year approaches, I want to take the liberty of the pen (or keyboard) to thank some outstanding elected officials!

Congratulations go out to Dr. Bradley Krivohlavek who was recognized recently by Nebraska Association of School Boards with the Ann Mactier Leadership Award for outstanding local school board members. Dr. Krivohlavek has served Norfolk Public Schools for 30 years. In December, Dr. Krivohlavek and, many other local school board members complete their final term of dedication and commitment to local school districts. Take time to thank those individuals who have and are willing to volunteer and give of their time and talent to serve on local school boards.

As we wind down 2014, I would also like to thank John Sieler, the Vice President of the State Board of Education, for his service to Nebraska students. It has been a pleasure to serve with John. I appreciate his advocacy for education and the future of Nebraska.

So, on to the middle of the school year! As I mentioned last month, the Nebraska State of the Schools Report was recently released to the public. In November, the report was updated with graduation rates, which, like reading, math and science test scores, are improving in Nebraska! Similar to the reading, math and science scores, an achievement gap among groups of students continues to exist. However, we should celebrate the efforts of all schools on improving graduation rates, while increasing graduation requirements.

As teachers and administrators look to January, they are reflecting on the first half of the school year, making adjustments for the second half of the school year, reviewing student achievement data, focusing on keeping students in school and on the pathway to graduation. School district staff are engaged in planning for next year, reviewing curriculum, evaluating additional courses that they can offer with existing staff or through partnerships with other schools or colleges or through distance education. A part of this district-level planning involves a review of Nebraska Department of Education Rule 10. The State Board is in its own mid-year review of the rule as well. Rule 10 frames the requirements for school district accreditation in Nebraska. Next month, I will spend more time describing Accountability for Quality Education Systems for Today and Tomorrow (AQuESTT) and the Rule 10 changes that are being proposed to define the expectations for quality and the accountability of Nebraska’s public schools in Nebraska.

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 rachel.wise@nebraska.gov. Search the Nebraska Department of Education website at www.education.ne.gov to learn more about education in our state.

Rachel Wise

Rachel Wise

A Full State Board of Education


By Rachel Wise

State Board of Education

Last month I wrote about some highs and lows encountered by the Nebraska Department of Education and the State Board of Education. The high for April: The Nebraska State Board of Education has a full board – eight members! In January two board members, Mark Quandahl and Rebecca Valdez resigned. Both of these board members provided tremendous leadership and support for the constituents they represented in Districts 2 and 4. These districts comprise parts of Douglas and Sarpy counties. On March 18, Gov. Heineman announced the appointment of two new board members, Glen Flint serving District 2 and John Witzel serving District 4. Mr. Flint and Mr. Witzel took the oath of office on March 28th and became fully engaged board members at their first meeting in April. I look forward to work with Glen and John, who will provide both an important perspective and leadership in our service to children, families, schools, communities and to the great State of Nebraska!

Rachel Wise, State Board of Education.

Rachel Wise, State Board of Education.

As the Legislature is winding down its session, there are two bills that I would like to write about that will have a significant impact on the future of education in Nebraska. It is a privilege to highlight Sen. Kate Sullivan’s priority bill, LB 1103, which calls for the development of a vision for education in Nebraska. This bill and the process of creating that vision should help guide the work of the Legislature, the Nebraska State Board of Education and local school boards. I am optimistic that the process and subsequent vision will limit the reactionary process of developing educational policy and encourage a pro-active approach for schools and communities to build systems that meet the needs of all children in Nebraska. As eloquently stated in Section 1 of LB 1103, “In order to continue the pursuit of the good life in Nebraska, a common statewide vision must be refined to address the potential of all students across the state.” The Nebraska State Board of Education has been reviewing its current goals, to be ready to align our vision and goals with those developed through the process proposed in LB 1103. The current State Board goals are to improve: The achievement and outcomes for all students; support state and local accountability; and, communication and collaboration with policy partners.

The other critical piece of legislation passed this year was LB 438, the Quality Education Accountability Act. This bill helps to frame the development and implementation of a system of accountability for Nebraska schools. The state board’s accountability committee and the Nebraska of Department of Education have been working diligently to define the key elements of the accountability system for Nebraska. This system will move away from just reporting student achievement and ranking schools and move toward a system of classifying schools on multiple indicators, such as graduation rates, student growth, improvement on assessments and other performance indicators as established by the state board. The system will classify schools of excellence as well as priority schools needing improvement and intervention.

Finally, another low. The state board adopted a resolution honoring the life and leadership of a long-time Nebraska Department of Education employee, Russ Inbody. Russ was known throughout the state for his knowledge of school finance and a host of other areas of expertise. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with his family, friends and many, many educators who learned about leadership through Russ.

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 rachel.wise@nebraska.gov. Search the Nebraska Department of Education website at www.education.ne.gov to learn more about education in our state.

Farm to School Summit Coming to West Point


Do you want to learn more about Farm to School opportunities in Nebraska?  Join The Center for Rural Affairs along with the Nebraska Department of Education, the Nebraska Food Cooperative and Nebraska Farmers Union for a Farm to School Summit on the afternoon of March 18 in West Point, Nebraska.

Farm to School Summit
1:00 – 4:30pm
Tuesday, March 18
Nielsen Community Center
West Point, NE
*Please register before March 10 at www.cfra.org/farm-to-school

This informative, hands-on workshop will bring together cross-sector stakeholders (schools, growers/producers, and community members) and small to mid-sized producers, school districts, and community members will find this Summit informational and actionable.

Three breakout tracks will be held that will set your farm, school, or community on the garden path to plot out the feasibility, identify barriers and opportunities, and develop an action plan. Implementing a farm to school program is not a “one size fits all!”

For more info visit our Farm to School website or contact me at carylg@cfra.org or on my
cell (308) 850-6041 or office (308) 357-1000

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