There have certainly been plenty of challenges for public education in Nebraska over the past few years. School funding, an over-reliance on local property taxes, and a politicized approach to push more "school choice" options at the expense of public education are some of the hot topics that continue to spark debate in all corners of our state.
While it's human nature to quite often dwell on the negative, there's been a lot of successes for public education in Nebraska also. Nebraska has one of the three highest graduation rates in the nation. Nebraska has the 2nd highest NAEP scores in the Midwest. Nebraska has had the highest ACT in the nation of the 15+ states with 80% or more of their students taking it and moved to a model this past April where all juniors took it and we're waiting on those scores for comparison purposes. Proficiency scores on NeSA continue to climb. Life is good in the Cornhusker state and it's going to get even better!
It's been great to see a major shift in attitudes of school leaders all across the state. We've been more close-knit. We've become more supportive of each other. We collaborate more. The attack on public education that I've blogged about so many times in recent years is making public education even better. Educators love a good challenge. We like to have a cause. We're more together than I can ever remember in my 24-year career. We realize and appreciate that we need each other to do well so we continue to push the envelope forward together. Making York better not only helps York but puts pressure on others to get better. We want to compete and raise the bar again and again and again not just for ourselves but others. All of us are always a "work in progress." We keep track of the great things going on in Millard, Gothenburg, Milford, and others. We don't want to fall behind. Let's all continue to push each other!
Educators talk more together now than we used to. We text. We email. We google hangout and we even have zoom meetings together. We support each other. We share ideas and resources. We want each other to succeed. We know the challenges that lie ahead for each of us. We not only want our school districts to do great things for kids but we want all others to do the same as well.
"Nebraska Loves Public Schools" deserves a lot of credit for this expanded camaraderie and collaboration. They've helped unite public educators all across the state. They've helped share our stories. They've shown that they appreciate the work that we do every day for every student.
York and Seward are big-time rivals. Always have been and always will be. However, in January 2015 when we needed help with a crisis, they were the first people we called and they came running to help. We would do the same. You see, all of us public educators are in this thing together. You might be a Duke, a Bluejay, a Wildcat, Cardinal, Tiger, Titan, Duster, Viking, Bronco, or a Ram but we're all in the kid business. We all have to do whatever we can to make our schools the best they can be for our students.
I'm proud to be a public educator in Nebraska with the likes of Mike Teahon in Gothenburg, John Skretta at Norris, Greg Barnes at ESU 11, Jennifer Stengel at Fillmore Central, Mark Adler in Ralston, Jim Sutfin in Millard, Holly Herzberg in Hampton, Mike Herzberg in Grand Island, Craig Badura in Aurora, Brent Hollinger at Cross County, Clark Vetter in Franklin, Melissa Wheelock in Minden, Pat Nauroth in Beatrice, Brandon Mowinkel and Kevin Wingard in Milford, Garrett Borcher in Crete, Vern Fisher at Gibbon, Caroline Winchester in Chadron, Brandon Lavely in Wahoo, Stephen Grizzle in Fairbury, Jeff Edwards in Nebraska City, Darren Tobey at Southern Valley, Kevin Riley in Gretna, Blane McCann at Omaha Westside, and hundreds of others that I am lucky to be able to call, tweet, or text whenever I need support or advice or just someone that understands the world we live in.
Nebraska's public schools are worth celebrating. They're worth protecting. We're all in this thing together and the turbulence will continue.