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Nebraska School Improvement Research Partnership

About the Partnership

The Nebraska School Improvement Research Partnership (NE School Improvement RP) assembles a group of Nebraska stakeholders whose objectives include identifying evidence-based practices for school improvement, determining strategies for implementing such practices, and exploring ways in which education agencies can sustain and scale up programs for schools in need of improvement. The partnership has three areas of focus: Evidence-Based Practices; Scaling Intensive Support; and Data-Informed Decision-Making. Overall, partnership objectives include supporting NDE in creating a coherent system of support for continuous school improvement and in building internal capacity for data-driven decision-making. The long-term goal is to increase NDE’s capacity to provide coordinated, coherent, and high-quality support to Nebraska schools.

Focus Areas

Evidence-Based Practices Icon

Evidence-Based Practices: focuses on identifying postsecondary effectiveness indicators and literacy interventions that are predictive of positive student academic outcomes.

Scaling Intensive Support Icon

Scaling Intensive Support: focuses on supporting strategies for scaling up intensive support for priority schools to other schools in need of improvement.

Data-Informed Decision Making Icon

Data-Informed Decision Making: focuses on identifying peer schools to support continuous school improvement.


Summary of Related Projects

Technical Support

Nebraska Mathematics Strategies and Interventions
Open Project
The Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) partnered with REL Central in a previous project to begin development of a resource inventory of evidence-based interventions and strategies for reading instruction, distilled from What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) practice guides. As a follow-up to that project, NDE seeks to enhance the resource inventory by incorporating resources for math instruction. This project supports NDE partners in identifying evidence-based strategies distilled from the WWC practice guides for math instruction to include in the inventory. The project will provide NDE partners with a foundation of evidence-based interventions and strategies for math instruction, which will support the success of current and future educators and enhance math learning for students across Nebraska.

Assessing and Selecting Reading Strategies and Interventions
Closed Project
The Nebraska Reading Improvement Act requires that educators, in collaboration with parents, develop individual reading plans for students who are identified as having potential reading difficulties. The Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) needs to develop an inventory of evidence-based interventions and strategies to support educators in meeting the requirements of this act. This project supports NDE partners in identifying evidence-based strategies for reading instruction to include in the inventory. The project will provide NDE with a foundation of evidence-based interventions and strategies to support literacy development, which they can use in the future to help educators meet the Nebraska Reading Improvement Act requirements.

Nebraska Department of Education Reading Strategies and Interventions
Closed Project
The Nebraska Reading Improvement Act requires that educators, in collaboration with parents, develop individual reading plans for students who are identified as having potential reading difficulties. The Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) needs to develop an inventory of evidence-based interventions and strategies to support educators in meeting the requirements of this act. This project supports NDE partners in identifying evidence-based strategies for reading instruction to include in the inventory. The project will provide NDE partners with a foundation of evidence-based interventions and strategies to support literacy development, which they can use in the future to help educators meet the Nebraska Reading Improvement Act requirements.


Research Reports

How Nebraska Teachers Use and Perceive Summative, Interim, and Formative Data
Closed Project
The Nebraska State Board of Education has prioritized balanced assessment use as a key focus in the Nebraska Department of Education’s (NDE’s) development of a more strategic and coordinated system of statewide support. REL Central is partnering with NDE to conduct a study to understand how teachers use summative, interim, and formative assessment data and how perceptions and attitudes as well as teacher and school characteristics relate to teacher data use. This project supports NDE partners in survey customization, sampling, survey administration, data preparation, data cleaning, analysis, and data interpretation and reporting options. NDE staff intend to use the study results to inform plans for providing professional learning opportunities and resources to support teacher data use.
Report: How Nebraska Teachers Use and Perceive Summative, Interim, and Formative Data
Snapshot: View Study Snapshot
Study Brief: View Study Brief

Technical Support

Nebraska Needs Assessment for School Improvement
Open Project
The Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) developed a comprehensive needs assessment (CNA) to help comprehensive support and improvement schools and targeted support and improvement schools develop, implement, and monitor data-informed improvement plans. REL Central supported the development of the original CNA, and we will support NDE to revise the CNA for all Nebraska public schools to use. The revisions will reflect recent changes to Nebraska’s accountability system, incorporate items from other needs assessments (for example, Perkins V and multi-tiered system of supports), align with recent state accreditation changes, and support continuous improvement processes. In this project, REL Central will partner with NDE to convene stakeholders from local education agencies and educational service units to review and revise the CNA for all Nebraska schools. Additionally, REL Central will help NDE migrate the CNA to a more universally accessible platform and update CNA training materials.

Teacher Data Use of Balanced Systems of Assessments
Open Project
The Nebraska State Board of Education has prioritized balanced assessment use as a key focus in the Nebraska Department of Education’s (NDE’s) development of a more strategic and coordinated system of statewide support. REL Central is partnering with NDE to conduct a study to understand how teachers use summative, interim, and formative assessment data and how perceptions and attitudes as well as teacher and school characteristics relate to teacher data use. This project supports NDE partners in survey customization, sampling, survey administration, data preparation, data cleaning, analysis, and data interpretation and reporting options. NDE staff intend to use the study results to inform plans for providing professional learning opportunities and resources to support teacher data use.
Resource: Meeting 3 Technical Memo (2020)
Resource: Meeting 3 Data Placemat (2020)

Nebraska Framework of Support for Schools in Need of Improvement
Closed Project
This project supports NDE in understanding how priority schools are identifying and implementing evidence-based programs and practices that are feasible, sustainable, and scalable for schools that need improvement. Specifically, the project provides assistance to help NDE staff determine how to examine (1) the supports provided to priority schools; (2) the resources, costs, and conditions that promote schools in responding to supports; and (3) the extent to which the supports are scalable to additional schools in need.


Research Reports

Identifying Similar Schools to Support School Improvement
Closed Project
School leaders frequently compare student achievement and growth rates in their schools with state averages or with rates in nearby schools. Such comparisons, however, can be misleading because they may include schools with drastically different student populations, household income levels, and enrollments, among other characteristics. This report builds on a previous project in which REL Central supported the Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) in examining approaches for identifying groups of similar schools to support school improvement. The report will outline how NDE settled on a distance measure to identify a sample of similar schools, using a variety of characteristics to allow school and district leaders to more accurately understand how their schools are performing relative to their peers. The report will be a useful resource for education leaders who are interested in implementing a similar approach as they seek to support schools in improvement efforts.
Report: A Guide to Identifying Similar Schools to Support School Improvement

Measuring Civic Readiness: A Review of Instruments
Closed Project
As state education agencies reform their accountability systems, interest in identifying instruments to measure civic readiness has grown. This study will identify and review instruments measuring civic readiness. The study report will summarize the content and format of the instruments as well as the associated evidence of the reliability and validity of the instruments. SEAs and LEAs will be able to use the report generated by this study to identify, compare, and contrast multiple civic readiness instruments. Such a comparison will help these agencies make informed decisions about the instruments they wish to incorporate into their accountability systems.
Report: Measuring Civic Readiness: A Review of Survey Scales Worksheet (2021)
Worksheet: Measuring Civic Readiness: A Review of Survey Scales Worksheet (2021)

Technical Support

Exploring Implementation of Career Academies in Nebraska Schools
Open Project
The Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) has identified career academies as one career and technical education program that has promise for supporting schools in need of improvement. As a first step in understanding how career academies can support schools in need of improvement, NDE is exploring the implementation of career academies in schools that are meeting the requirements outlined by NDE in Regulations for Career Academy Programs Established by Schools Districts (2013), also known as Rule 47. REL Central is working with NDE to develop a case study to assess how these schools are implementing the approved Career Academy Program requirements and what implementation challenges the schools have faced. NDE will use the case study findings to develop resources for school leaders to implement Career Academy Programs with a focus on resources for schools in need of improvement.

Examination of Models to Identify Comparative Schools
Open Project
The Nebraska Education Profile (NEP) website includes a feature that allows schools and districts to compare achievement results with “similar peers” in order to support school improvement. NDE needs to refine the model for identifying similar peers so that schools and districts can more precisely understand how they are performing relative to their peers. REL Central is partnering with NDE to review its current statistical models and explore alternative models. NDE will use the model to provide similar peer data on its NEP website to encourage similar schools and districts to form communities of practice so that they can share practices with one another in support of student achievement.

Nebraska Data System Support
Open Project
In order to develop more consistency in the collection of elementary course offerings, streamline data collection and analysis for the district and the state, better understand patterns of course taking and content, and to allow for more automated collection of the data, NDE is considering the development of state wide course codes and definitions for elementary school courses and offerings. However, before embarking on a process to develop course codes for elementary courses, NDE would like to explore the necessity and reasons for collecting this data to ensure that the data collection is useful, necessary and does not create undue burden on school districts. REL Central will support NDE in making decisions about elementary course data collection, using a seven-step process in which key end users review the current data system and identify necessary changes.

Review of College and Career Readiness Indicators
Closed Project
The Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) needs to develop a framework for measuring college, career, and civic readiness (CCC-R). REL Central is supporting NDE partners in reviewing existing indicators for measuring CCC-R and discussing the strengths and weakness of each CCC-R indicator as it relates to NDE’s framework. The project will support NDE partners to develop a final framework for its accountability system and to determine what supports are needed to ensure that Nebraska students are college, career, and civic ready.