Wahoo Public School District & Wahoo Elementary Earn an AQuESTT Classification of 'EXCELLENT'
District named among Nebaska's 32 'top districts' in latest state assessments; Elementary advances from 'Great' to 'Excellent'
The Wahoo Public Schools is one of 32 districts (13 percent) across the state to achieve a classification of 'EXCELLENT,' and will look to build upon this positive momentum in the coming school years.
“Once again, our school district has been recognized through this classification process as an EXCELLENT educational system," commented Wahoo Middle School Principal Marc Kaminski. "From our community patrons to our dedicated staff, we ALL have worked extremely hard collectively to make Wahoo Public Schools a very special place where students are thriving!”
Each year, the Nebraska Department of Education classifies school districts and schools across the state as Excellent, Great, Good or Needs Improvement. Classifications are based on the Accountability for a Quality Education System (AQuESTT) classification criteria. The AQuESTT system is designed to measure student performance in more ways than via student performance on statewide assessments. For the 2018-19 school year, the Wahoo Public Schools District, as a whole, remained at an AQuESTT classification of “Excellent,” while the elementary school moved from “Great” to “Excellent,” and the middle and high schools maintain their classification of “Great.”
Wahoo Elementary was one of 50 schools across the state to improve their classification, and is one of 68 elementary schools with a classification of "Excellent."
The final AQuESTT state classifications are as follows: 135 schools (12 percent) are classified as "Excellent," 484 schools (44 percent) are "Great," 371 schools (34 percent) are "Good," and 116 schools (10 percent) are designated as "Needs Improvement."
AQuESTT classifications are centered around six core tenets:
1) Positive Partnerships, Relationships, and Success
3) Educational Opportunities and Access
4) College, Career and Civic Ready
6) Educator Effectiveness
The Wahoo Public Schools emphasizes an environment for teaching and learning that is centered on growth and continuous improvement. We are committed to:
• Equipping our students for the 21st Century
• Providing opportunities for students to realize their full potential
• Creating engaged citizens
• Collaborating with the greater Wahoo community
We are focusing our continuous improvement efforts on five key action steps:
1) Providing an environment that promotes safety and a positive culture
2) Providing high quality instruction that ensures academic growth for every student
3) Providing high quality curriculum that supports instructional goals
4) Utilizing high quality assessments and data collection tools to support student learning
5) Providing professional development and support which promote student learning
“As the systems around us continue to change, school districts across the state reflect upon instructional practices, analyze current instructional materials to ensure they are of high quality, and work with stakeholders to impact student performance and college/career readiness in positive ways,” stated WPS Director of Learning Dr. Josh Snyder.
When discussing the curriculum evaluation and renewal process, District Superintendent Brandon Lavaley shared, “The District is continually looking to improve learning opportunities for students. One way to do this is through curriculum evaluations and changes, if necessary. Utilizing direction from the State Department of Education, along with participation from teachers and administration, a final recommendation is presented to the Board of Education for consideration.”
The WPS continuous improvement and professional development process emphasizes both student and staff growth, and takes into account multiple data points when evaluating the school system as a whole. While state assessment (NSCAS) results are one measure of achievement, WPS also evaluates student growth and performance on local assessments and NWEA-MAP Growth measures. These assessments are specifically aligned to state standards and the essential learnings at each grade level/content area.
WPS prides itself on the partnership between staff and administration in working collaboratively to identify strengths and areas of improvement throughout the core instructional model. The District employs a process where both grade levels (elementary) and content areas (middle/high school) develop a SMART goal that relates directly to the data within their area. Once per month staff members participate in an early dismissal schedule that is focused on professional development, reflecting upon and analyzing current performance in their grade-level and/or content area. The Professional Learning Community (PLC) model is used to guide these meetings, which focus on doing what is best for ALL learners, through identifying strengths and areas of improvement and identifying support (capital and human resources) that may be needed to address the issue.
Math, ELA and Science at Elementary (Outscored the state average within these content areas on state assessments)
Math, ELA and Science at Middle School (Outscored the state average within these content areas on state assessments)
Math, ELA and Science at High School (Outscored the state average at these content areas on state assessments)
We will begin to know more within the next few years as the Nebraska Student-Centered Assessment System (NSCAS) is fully implemented and students and staff become more fluent with the College and Career Readiness State Standards being adopted at each content area.
District Areas of Improvement
Dr. Snyder shared several ways the district is currently working to maintain their focus on continuous improvement.
“The district continues to place a great deal of emphasis into the development of an MTSS process. An MTSS (Multi-Tiered System of Supports) is the foundation for all work that is done within WPS. Our MTSS leadership team has begun the essential work of taking stock of all the systems and programs currently in place at Wahoo Public, and ensuring all systems and programs support one another in accomplishing our vision,” Dr. Snyder said.
Wahoo Elementary School: Continuous Improvement Initiatives at Wahoo Elementary are focused on personalized learning opportunities, and building on the strength of the Wahoo Educational Behavioral Support System (WEBSS) as we align all of our systems with the MTSS framework, referenced in Every Student Succeeds Act. Wahoo Elementary Principal Ben Kreifels noted the collaboration among many committees and teams throughout the school. He specifically stated, “I’m especially excited for our staff and community to see how all goals align with one another. Some of the more obvious changes will come about in High Ability Programming, additional opportunities for specialized reading instruction in grades 3-5, and a high level of collaboration between our Special Education Department and each grade level team within our Professional Learning Community.”
Wahoo Middle School: Wahoo Middle School is focused on continually reviewing instructional strategies, rules/procedures, and ways to develop a positive learning environment for students. Mr. Kaminski specifically noted, “Through our ICU Program, we are focusing on the importance of “quality assignments.” Instructors are currently examining these practices with the type of work being assigned and how they are assessing students. An additional focus is being placed on the quality of work being turned in by students. Coming to a common understanding of what quality work looks like has been a priority.”
Wahoo High School: SENCAP Classes, CEO Program, College and Career Ready are an emphasis at Wahoo High School. WHS Principal Jarred Royal indicated, “We are providing students with opportunities for career exploration and specifically opportunities that are right here in Wahoo. Students are also able to get a head start on college credits through the SENCAP and Dual Credit programs. This allows students to limit student debt and experience college level courses with support from our teachers.”
The development and improvement of instructional routines remains an ongoing process that takes commitment from all K-12 staff within all content areas. Each building is consistently reviewing and modifying our specific systems of practice. From academics and support systems, to activities and facilities, we are continuously working to improve student success and growth. This process further is influenced by changes in state standards, which we have experienced in the past several years (ELA and Math), and will experience shortly in Science and Social Studies. The process is also influenced by changes in assessment measures, which we have also experienced in the past several years (ACT & NSCAS).
In summary, Dr. Snyder shared, “The staff members at WPS are fully committed to our vision of ‘Inspiring Our Students to Thrive!’”