OPS school board discusses first school testing results since before pandemic

OPS School Board
OPS School Board(WOWT 6 News)
Published: Nov. 28, 2022 at 10:47 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - For the first time since the 2018-2019 school year, the Omaha Public School district has a full year of testing results to evaluate the success and growth of students.

But as expected, the results from the 2021-2022 testing cycle indicate learning gaps caused by the pandemic.

“This data doesn’t seem so bleak to me, because you gotta think back to what it was like, so I guess I try to hold onto that when you look at these numbers and they might not be as great as we all want them and maybe they’re a little disheartening but I can’t imagine from a teacher’s perspective, trying to get students motivated to take these tests,” said OPS school board member Tracy Casady Monday night.

OPS students go through three sets of testing - the first is MAP Growth testing, for students K through grade 10. These tests measure students’ ability to meet curriculum standards ad help improve district curriculum and programs and is administered to student three times yearly.

MAP Growth results project yearly growth ‘goals’ for students by comparing test results to peers across the country.

In 2021-2022 for reading goals, 37% of students met or exceeded the projected growth goal, while 30% saw negative growth. The remaining 32% saw growth but didn’t meet the projected goals.

In math, 39% met or exceeded projected goals, 19% saw negative growth, and 42% saw growth but didn’t meet the projected goal.

“I don’t want our educators to come under attack because these scores don’t measure everything that goes into just into 24 hours of being an educator,” said OPS board member Ricky Smith.

The second set of testing is the Nebraska Student-Centered Assessment System (NSCAS), which is specifically developed for Nebraska, and tests to see if students have learned what they were expected to learn.

The tests are currently given once yearly, but starting next year will be given three times yearly.

The results showed continued growth, but differences in proficiency compared to previous years.

In 2016-2017, 35% of third through eighth graders tested “proficient” in English/Language Arts, whereas in 2021-2022, 27% tested “proficient.” In OPS, eighth graders were 34% proficient in all subjects, while statewide, 63% of students were proficient.

The final set of testing is the NSCAS ACT tests for 11th graders.

Results from April ACT testing showed that 22% of students tested and met state proficiency benchmarks for English/Language Arts, 16% for math, and 21% for science.

“As a reminder, the grade 11 students who took the ACT test in the spring of 2022 had both their 9th-grade year and 10th-grade year disrupted due to the pandemic,” said the OPS research division Monday.

The district-wide average score for math in 2021-2022 is 13.9, whereas, in 2018-2019, it was 16.1.

District-wide average scores for science in 2021-2022 is 14.0, whereas, in 2018-2019 it was also 16.1.

Average scores for English/Language Arts were 12.6 this year, whereas, in 2018-2019 it was 14.7.

“We know that the efforts of staff, students, and families in OPS have resulted in MPA Growth results showing that students are demonstrating growth in reading math, and science, in NSCAS and NSCAS ACT results are showing that our students are maintaining achievement performance on grade-level standards,” the research division said.

Board members Monday recognized the learning gap while focusing on the positives from the test results.

“The actual growth in every group was the vast majority of students, they may not have been growing at the rate we expected or wanted but they were still seeing growth,” said board member Spencer Head.

Research division members say that test results from 2021-2022 have become a new baseline for future test results and that recovery and growth are entirely possible.

“This reflects what the pandemic has brought and what we’re building towards to regain where we have been before, that’s one thing I think is important for the system to recognize, is that we do have a history of recovering, we’ve been through a lot of testing realities in just the 10 years I’ve been here.”

More in-depth test results and school-by-school breakdowns can be found on the Nebraska Board of Education website.