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Gering ranks seventh in graduation rate
November 22, 2012 Jerry Purvis   

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Official numbers from the “state report card” were released Tuesday by the Nebraska Department of Education, and while Gering has excelled in some areas, other areas could use improvement. The data measures reading, math, science, writing, math improvement and growth in reading and math.

A bright point for the Gering school district is that, compared to similar sized schools, their graduation rate is ranked in seventh place based on state data.

“There are some things we feel very good about and some things we need to address,” said Gering School Superintendent Don Hague. “The state has given us a lot of data, which we’ll use to make decisions going forward. Over years, this will be a good thing.”

The “good thing” Hague referred to is NePAS, the Nebraska Performance Accountability System, in effect for the first time this year in the state’s 243 separate districts.

“Because this system actually ranks school districts, some of my colleagues are worried about sitting at the bottom,” Hague said. “The key is that if a district uses that as a baseline, they can implement improvements for the next year.”

NePAS ranks districts in a number of areas. The status category ranks districts by average scale scores in reading, writing, math and science.

The growth category compares reading and math scores of the same students this year with their scores next year. Compared with previous years, Gering ranked ninth.

The improvement component ranks reading and math scores of students in the same grade from year to year, which would be different individual students.

Graduation rates rank districts by comparing the percentage of high school year graduates using the four-year cohort method. Finally, participation is required but not ranked.

Hague said he uses the 30 largest districts in the state for comparison purposes. Gering is ranked 22nd. “Those districts go from Omaha to Nebraska City and range from 49,000 kids to 1,400 kids.”

Hague said many of those 30 districts have similar challenges to Gering. One factor that affects school performance is the number of students enrolled in the district’s free and reduced price lunch program.

“That program is a measure of what kind of poverty rate we’re dealing with,” he said. “Those numbers range from 7.4 percent in Elkhorn to 78.6 percent in Lexington. Gering is in the middle
at 46.3 percent. The poverty rate is probably the single biggest characteristic for a district to overcome. A higher poverty rate means your students are facing more challenges.”

He added with the seventh highest graduation rate, Gering is doing the right thing in getting kids the education they need despite the fact they come from homes that may not have as much.

Hague said that many of the state’s smallest school districts will do well on the NePAS ranking.

“When you’re dealing with less than 30 kids in a class, it makes an entirely different concept for them. With distance learning, they’re able to take advantage of some of the higher level classes in math and science.”

He added the biggest challenge to overcome is in districts with a high poverty rate and mobility of families moving in and out of the district. In many smaller districts, kids that start kindergarten together will graduate together.

“Now we have the data, we need to do something with it,” Hague said. “We’re already working on ways to improve.”
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