MURDOCK – Elmwood-Murdock teachers, staff and community members have made it their mission to provide students with a top-quality educational experience.
Nebraska Department of Education officials gave the district an A+ for that effort in the latest state-ranking system.
Elmwood-Murdock earned a grade of Excellent in the NDE’s school-ratings instrument for the 2018-19 year. The district received the top mark in the Accountability for a Quality Education System Today and Tomorrow (AQuESTT) scale.
Elmwood-Murdock Superintendent Ryan Knippelmeyer said the district was proud to earn the elite honor. The Knights have been ranked as one of the top schools in Nebraska’s AQuESTT system for multiple years.
“We are very pleased and excited to see our district recognized as an Excellent school district again this year,” Knippelmeyer said. “This is something that we continuously talk about with our teachers, staff and students and we take great pride in this achievement. Our teachers and staff work extremely hard throughout the year to provide students what they need in order to be successful.”
The AQuESTT system rates both individual school buildings and overall school districts in Nebraska. The NDE uses the system to evaluate all public schools in the state. Students attended classes at 244 public school districts and 1,106 public school buildings in 2018-19.
The AQuESTT system does not classify districts and schools with a traditional numerical rating scale. Instead, it uses four levels – Excellent, Great, Good and Needs Improvement – to represent a school’s standing.
Knippelmeyer said teachers, administrators and staff members were pleased about many pieces of information contained in the AQuESTT report. The district’s attendance rate was 96.24 percent and 71 percent of students showed individual score growth on state assessments. E-M students also scored higher than many peer districts on state tests in English, math and science.
“Overall as a district, we take great pride in seeing the overall number of students who were not proficient on state assessments decline, while also seeing the number of students who have shown improvement from last year to this year increase,” Knippelmeyer said. “Our teachers and staff work extremely hard in their classrooms and these results further validate the work they do on a daily basis.”
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Elmwood-Murdock had successful scores this past year on Nebraska Student-Centered Assessment System (NSCAS) tests in grades 3-8. Seventy-three percent of district students scored in the proficient range on English/Language Arts (ELA) exams. Those numbers rose to 76 percent for math and 79 percent for science.
State officials also looked at ACT results for high school students. Sixty percent of Elmwood-Murdock students were in the proficient range for math and 73 percent were proficient in science. The district had 80 percent of test-takers reach proficiency in the ELA section of the ACT.
Elmwood-Murdock students have produced solid NSCAS results in all five years that Nebraska has administered the testing system. The district has also posted positive results in overall attendance, graduation and test participation rates. Those have helped E-M maintain an Excellent rating on the AQuESTT.
Knippelmeyer said many people deserved credit for those academic achievements.
“There are many factors that contribute to our school district’s success over the years,” Knippelmeyer said. “First, I think the culture that’s been established over the last 10-15 years plays a big part in the success we see today. We have high expectations for all of our students and hold them accountable on a daily basis.
“We have parents and students who value education and support what we do in our schools. We have a school board who is very supportive and expects us to continue to improve. In education we know nothing ever stays the same – we’re either improving or not improving – so we challenge our teachers, staff and students to try new things and get better every day.”
Knippelmeyer said Elmwood-Murdock’s veteran teachers have passed down that tradition of excellence to staff members who have joined the district. He said that will help Elmwood-Murdock continue to provide students with A+ experiences for many years.
“Our teachers and staff take a lot of pride in our Excellent rating, but also understand this is just one component of the overall educational process,” Knippelmeyer said. “We’ve been fortunate over the years to have had very little turnover in teachers and staff, which has now changed over the last couple of years due to retirements.
“Our new teachers and staff over the last couple of years have bought in to our culture, while also bringing their own experiences and skillsets that will further define our school’s culture and success into the future.”