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District Communications - News Room


News Release

For Immediate Release: 10 a.m. / Central Time / Nov. 18, 2016


Monique Farmer
Director, District Communications
(531) 299-9819

Kala Morrissey
District Communications
(531) 299-9421

OPS posts highest state test scores in district history

Omaha, Neb.—Omaha Public Schools is hosting a press conference and tour Friday, Nov. 18 at Wakonda Elementary School to celebrate and share the results of the district’s 2015-2016 state test scores. The district showed improvements from the previous year’s test scores in all core subject areas: science, math, reading and writing.

Following the press conference at Wakonda, attendees were taken on a brief tour of the school prior to participating in a celebratory signing of a bus wrapped in Omaha Public Schools’ branding provided by sponsor First Nebraska Credit Union as a congratulatory gesture for the district’s achievement. Wakonda is the first school in the State of Nebraska to receive a State Improvement Grant.

“We understand the challenges urban school districts face and were impressed with the work OPS has done within the past several years,” said Ann Loftis, CEO of First Nebraska Credit Union. “We want to show our support and congratulate the district for a job well done.”

Students from Wakonda Elementary and Castelar Elementary signed the bus with messages that expressed why they are #OPSProud. The second part of the district’s tour included a trip to Castelar Elementary on the bus for a presentation by staff, community partners and students and an overview of the dual language program.

Both Wakonda and Castelar achieved notable test score improvements from the previous school year. Within the district, they have both been recognized as Gold Award Winners for their achievements. Gold Award Winners receive a recognition plaque and catered lunch for the school’s teachers and staff.

Wakonda Elementary School Principal Ebony Harvey began leading the school’s turnaround efforts in 2015, hiring an entirely new staff and setting the leadership vision and culture for the school to transition away from its previous reputation as a persistently low performing school to its current reputation as an elementary school leader in the district. The school has experienced increased community partnerships and parent engagement. Wakonda Elementary School’s focus on school building culture, professional development and leadership and technology have helped turn the school around as well. Harvey came to the district from a previous role as an Assistant Principal for Wichita Public Schools.

“We hit the ground running,” said Harvey. “We hired staff who came in excited about the turnaround efforts and what we would be doing for our kids. We’ve also had ample support from the district. Our team is committed to professional development, leadership, success and contributing to a building culture that commands academic excellence.”

A growing district, Omaha Public Schools’ enrollment has increased by approximately 5 percent within the past five years, particularly amongst English Language Learners, up about 27 percent since the 2011-2012 school year. The district also serves a population of free and reduced lunch students that is about 30 percent higher than the state average of 44.2 percent. Omaha Public Schools’ free and reduced lunch population is approximately 74.3 percent.

Still, the district has demonstrated academic achievement growth that is notable amongst urban school districts across the nation. The district earned the following growth rates for the 2015-2016 school year:

• Grades 3 through 6 (elementary school) – increase of 2 percent from previous year
• Grades 7 through 8 (middle school) - increase of 4 percent from previous year
• Grade 11 (high school) - increase of 6 percent from previous year

• Grades 3 through 6 (elementary school) – increase of 1 percent from previous year
• Grades 7 through 8 (middle school) - increase of 1 percent from previous year
• Grade 11 (high school) - increase of 2 percent from previous year

• Grades 3 through 6 (elementary school) – increase of 2 percent from previous year
• Grades 7 through 8 (middle school) – slight decrease of 2 percent from previous year
• Grade 11 (high school) - increase of 1 percent from previous year

• Grade 4 (elementary school) – increase of 6 percent from previous year
• Grade 8 (middle school) – slight decrease of 1 percent from previous year
• Grade 11 (high school) – slight decrease of 2 percent from previous year

The district also shared information about growth and improvements among some of its lowest performing schools at the elementary and secondary level. Several years ago, the district hired four principal supervisors to serve in coaching and mentoring roles to help provide building principals with additional central office support and resources. The results have indicated academic performance increases across all core subject areas at those schools. Reading scores have improved by 6.42 percent, math scores by 5.58 percent, science scores by 4.32 percent and writing scores by 10.72 percent.

“We are in the business of helping our students succeed academically so they are prepared for life beyond the classroom,” said Superintendent Mark Evans. “OPS is emerging as a leading urban school district around the nation. We are being called upon to help share lessons learned from our journey with leaders in education across the country. Boosting student achievement in an urban school district is no easy feat. I often say ‘if we were a business, student achievement would be our stock.’ Well, our stock is up and we will continue to make the necessary investments to prepare our students for success in college, career and life.”

About OPS: Omaha Public Schools is the largest school district in the state of Nebraska and is governed by a nine-member Board of Education. OPS employs more than 7,296 staff and has 82 schools and 13 alternative programs serving approximately 52,000 students in grades K-12, including special education and English language learners. The district’s vision – Every Student. Every Day. Prepared for Success. – and its mission – to prepare all students to excel in college, career and life – demonstrate OPS’ commitment to ensuring all students can be successful in the classroom and beyond.

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