The Student News Site of Bellevue East High School

The Tom Tom

The Student News Site of Bellevue East High School

The Tom Tom

The Student News Site of Bellevue East High School

The Tom Tom

East is on the NDE ‘needs improvement’ list

Raffle prizes, early release, field day offered to juniors to raise ACT scores

Bellevue East was categorized as “Needs Improvement,” by falling short by 6/10ths of a percent, according to the 2022-23 AQuESST report. The Nebraska Department of Education provides the “District Classifications” each year by utilizing the AQuESST system which provides a report of district performance, that includes students’ academics among other information, such as attendance, growth, achievements, and graduation rate. This classification is provided annually based on the prior year of performance. 

Principal Jeffery Wagner, along with other staff members and students, has been working to improve East’s ranking for the upcoming year. 

High school students are scored by the ACT test which is required by all Nebraska juniors, for free. The ACT is given as a means to measure student proficiency in educational materials provided within the curriculum, as well as the probability of being proficient in higher education. The test, playing a role in the school’s rankings, emphasizes the importance of the practice ACT activities prior to reaching junior year. According to Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI) and Additional Targeted Support and Improvement (ATSI), “If student group performance is below the lowest quarter of Title I schools, then a school is identified for Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI). If student group performance is below the lowest 5% of Title I schools, then a school is identified for Additional Targeted Support and Improvement (ATSI).”

“There’s a variety of things that go into that, but the main one is our proficiency on the ACT test, which is the state test that they use to start with those rankings,” Wagner said. “We had a lower percentage of students last spring that took the test, that were proficient in the different areas. There are four sub-tests: You have math, science, writing, and English. You have to have proficiencies in each of those levels and we did not have enough students to meet the proficiency level. We are six-tenths of a percentage away.”

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Junior Angel Dawson, a member of the John Baylor OnToCollege Advisory, worked with other members in this group to improve the school’s overall ranking, along with the ACT assessment scores. They go over practice exams, questions, and review for the test. 

“I did hear about that in English class, when we were going over the ACT, and I don’t necessarily think we as a high school need improvement,”Dawson said. “I think we need to work on our mindset and our motivation. It’s not that we are in high school, that’s not what’s happening. It’s just that we’re not trying.”  

According to 2023 AQuESTT Classification Explanations, “The Growth indicator is the percentage of NSCAS/NSCAS-Alt assessment scores within a school or district that showed an increase compared to the same individual’s score in the previous year within the same subject area. Only ELA and Math assessments are used in Growth rate calculations, since Science assessments are not taken in consecutive grades.” Because Bellevue East failed to pass the Growth indicator, a large deduction was taken from East’s ranking. 

“To me, it just means that we have work to do,” Wagner said. “We have to do some things to try and get our students ready for that. It’s difficult because, not even as a principal, just as a person with education, I believe it’s more than just that test. It hurts me to say that we’re a school that maybe needs improvement or needs support to improve, so I take that a little bit personally because I think we’re a good school. I would hope our students want to be a good school, and so I think there has to be some pride in that.” 

Junior Catherine Barron-Alvarado doesn’t have plans of attending college in her future. She believes that the ACT is unnecessary for those who don’t plan on using it to apply for further education. 

“I feel like the ACT’s just a big test that teachers stress so much and they make students nervous,” Barron-Alvarado said. “I feel like we should try to see what we can do to a certain point. Some things you actually need to learn about, but other things not really.” 

The Chronic Absenteeism indicator is the fluctuations between percentages of students missing 18 or more full days. The goal is a 5% improvement annually to get the Chronic Absenteeism bonus involved in the ranking score. No repercussions come with failing to meet the indicator, which Bellevue East did not meet the requirements last year, but improving attendance could give East the bonus to place them higher in classification. 

“If the attendance rate is low and if you have a high number of students missing school, they’re not here to learn,” Wagner said. “They’re missing classes. You could make a correlation that maybe those ACT scores are lower because they are not here to learn. As far as the AQUESTT ranking, you can get a bump up if you have decreased the amount of chronic absenteeism from the previous year.”  

Barron-Alvarado does not believe that attendance is crucial for everyone because not everyone’s future includes college or a higher education. Some students who are unsure of their future plans may have a lack of motivation at school, due to being unclear of what path they are on. 

“I think kids skip school because they don’t want to be here,” Barron-Alvarado said. “I feel like you have to try to a certain point but it doesn’t matter if you don’t want to do anything after.” 

As more colleges are not requiring the ACT, student’s efforts have depleted on the test. Without a reason for performing well on the assessment, students lack encouragement to try their best. 

“I know that some students know that colleges are steering away from the ACT, so they are doing less to prepare and improve on their score, which I don’t necessarily think that that’s a good idea,” Dawson said. “I think you should still try your hardest, regardless of if it’s not going to matter as much because knowledge is just as important as anything else that you do.”

Understanding that the ACT may set the requirements for the majority of the school’s overall ranking, it doesn’t determine an individual’s knowledge. In an effort to encourage juniors to try harder to raise their scores, East is offering prizes including chances to win a $25 gas card, prom tickets, restaurant gift cards, movie gift cards, catered lunch, $50 cash and more. There are even offers of a big screen TV, and a junior field day.

While cramming for an extensive amount of time is unlikely to benefit students, the school is encouraging juniors to use strategies like eliminating wrong answers, straight line bubbling when time runs out, and completing all sections of the ACT, including the writing portion to raise their scores. Motivational stickers were also handed out, reminding students to be “Always Crushing Tests,” and to “Slay the ACT.” However, even if the scores improve, the ACT is not a complete picture of a student’s academic success.

“I think it’s one piece of the puzzle,” Wagner said. “I don’t think college admissions should rely upon just the ACT. That’s one test, one day, and I think a student’s body of work should speak more loudly than one test. I would rather see what courses the students take, what their GPA was, and what activities and things were they involved with. I think that would give you a better indicator of how that student could do in college.”

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