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In the past month Columbus Public Schools had the opportunity to host state Sens. Patty Pansing-Brooks of Lincoln, Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn and Paul Schumacher of Columbus at Emerson Elementary School to see and hear the great things happening with reading instruction at CPS. The three senators visited a first-grade classroom and reading intervention room as part of a statewide tour of eight different school districts. We were able to showcase our staff and the great things they are doing as well as how we monitor students and their reading skills. This visit was part of LR222, an interim study to examine dyslexia and reading literacy in Nebraska.

Academic success and building a brighter future is our STEM education program. All students at Columbus Middle School are required to take a 12-week STEM course in fifth and sixth grades. In seventh and eighth grades, all students take STEM for one semester. These courses introduce all of our students to skill sets they otherwise would not be exposed to. These skills are in direct relation to the great jobs available to them right here in Columbus.

Our STEM program has also gathered some notoriety from across the state. The Nebraska Loves Public Schools organization spent a day at CHS with their film crew, documenting the power of STEM and how it will impact our state workforce. We have given tours to school districts, chamber of commerce organizations, state senators, superintendents from across the state and even school board members from other districts. What we are doing here with the help of business and industry in Columbus is becoming a model for others to follow.

Since 2013 and each year since, Columbus High School has taken part in the Nebraska Department of Education's ACT pilot project. This project allowed all juniors at CHS to take the ACT one time at the cost of the state. This pilot project was the beginning of the eventual adoption of the ACT as the state test for high school students. So when we say all students, we mean all. These would include students with learning disabilities, students with English as a second language, and those who would not have ever been afforded the opportunity to take the college placement test.

A breakdown of how our students are doing on the ACT:

• 100 percent of all juniors (1,019 students) since 2013 have taken the ACT test. The statewide percentage is 84 percent.

• 19.2, the average composite score for all students since 2013.

• 22.0, the average composite score for CHS students compared to the state average of 21.7 for students who plan on attending a four-year college and have taken the core requirements (core means taking four or more years of English and three or more years of mathematics, social studies and natural sciences).

• 87 percent of CHS juniors since 2013 indicated they would be attending a two- or four-year college.

Our hope in volunteering CHS to be part of the pilot was to provide an opportunity for our students to experience great success and let them know a postsecondary education at a two- or four-year college is a goal they can achieve. Many scholarships are available to those who do well on these exams. We are very proud of the efforts of our students. Of the eight schools that took part in the pilot, CHS has the highest percentage of students attending postsecondary schools.

There are a lot of reasons to be proud of the job our students and staff are doing. It is a reason to celebrate!

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Troy Loeffelholz is superintendent of Columbus Public Schools. He can be reached at


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