Priority school designation amended, advanced

Senators advanced a bill from select file March 5 that would provide special assistance to the state’s three lowest performing schools.

Under LB438, introduced by York Sen. Greg Adams, an intervention team appointed by the State Board of Education would assist the school district and school staff in diagnosing issues and designing and implementing strategies to address them. A school would retain the priority designation until the State Board of Education determines it is no longer necessary.

The intervention team — in conjunction with school district staff — would be required to develop a progress plan to include specific action by the school and district to remove the priority designation. Any priority school would be required to comply with the progress plan for the school district to maintain accreditation.

The State Board of Education annually would review progress plans and suggest any modifications. If a school were designated as a priority school for five consecutive years, the board would be required to reevaluate the progress plan.

Adams introduced an amendment, adopted 28-0, that would authorize the state board to implement an alternative administrative structure if a school consistently fails to meet the guidelines set forth in its progress plan.

Adams said the amendment gives the board more authority to respond in crisis situations.

“[During earlier debate] I heard more than one senator say we need to do more,” he said. “I’m trying to strike what I perceive to be a very delicate balance between giving the state board the authority and flexibility to go into schools and get them turned around, yet not going at it with a chain saw.”

Omaha Sen. Rick Kolowski supported the amendment, saying it is important that schools are given clear expectations.

“[Schools] know they have standards and that they must meet those standards,” he said. “[They need to know that] when they don’t [meet those standards], they’re going to have help from the state Department of Education to get to the level of acceptability.”

Senators advanced the bill to final reading by voice vote.

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