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Geil placed on underachiever list
December 13, 2012 Jerry Purvis   

Read more by Jerry Purvis
Geil Elementary School in Gering has been notified it has been placed on the persistently low performing schools (PLAS) list by the state Department of Education.

A statewide student assessment test provided the data that determines which schools are placed on the PLAS list. Each year, Nebraska must identify the bottom 15 percent of its schools by category as underachieving to meet federal requirements.

Gering School Superintendent Don Hague said one reason a school can end up on the PLAS list is because a subgroup of the student body does not perform at the same level as all students. Those subgroups might include students receiving special education services, gender groups and ethnic designation, English language learners and students receiving free or reduced price lunches.

This is the first time one of Gering’s schools has been placed on the PLAS list. “It’s only been the past three years where schools have been rated,” Hague said. “It’s required because we receive federal money through No Child Left Behind.”

Hague declined to identify which subgroup had fallen behind, but he said it was only one group in one area – reading.

Terri Martin, director of curriculum and assessment, said Geil parents have been notified and given a parent choice option. “If parents want their students to leave Geil School, they can choose one of our other three elementary schools. We also provide them with test scores from all the schools so they can make that choice.”

Martin said that typically, schools never had more than a handful of transfers to deal with, but parents must be given the option.

Hague said the entire staff knows Geil is performing well. It was just that one subgroup that created the identification. He added the designation is based solely on test results from NeSA, the Nebraska State Assessment, so the results are rather narrow. The assessment tests in the areas of reading, science, math and writing.

Martin said Geil Principal Mary Kay Haun and her staff have already implemented a number of assessments to gauge student performance. “We hope to work with parents on this because it’s not just the schools that need to address the problem.”

One of those assessments is Check for Learning, a computer program that allows kids to practice both computer skills and standardized test skills.

“This was a wake up call and it means more accountability for all of us,” Martin said. “We’ve developed a plan with lots of monitoring, so we’ll check students on a regular basis to assure they’re making progress. As a district, we need to be pulling together on this.”

Hague said the focus on improving Geil can also be applicable in all elementary schools to assure students are getting the best quality education. All staff development will be shared across the district.

He added the way the system is currently set up, a lot of the state’s school districts, over time, will be on the PLAS list at one time or another.

“Our mission is to teach all kids,” Hague said. “This is a reminder we’ll have to work a little harder to catch everyone. It’s always hard to meet adequate yearly progress.”
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