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Most people don’t work with the complexity involved with the Nebraska Department of Education’s efforts to improve struggling schools across the state.

Schuyler Central High School, was chosen last week for intervention by the Nebraska Department of Education.  The school was selected largely because the community's demographics have changed dramatically over the past 18 years.

SCHS was approved as a “priority status” school on Friday.  The school will replace Druid Hill Elementary, a high-poverty school in north Omaha that state education officials said made enough progress in a year to be removed from the priority list.

State law requires the education department to classify schools according to academic achievement and designate three “priority schools,” a task officials have approached by choosing schools that represent four distinct categories.

They hope to help schools that face similar challenges.

The categories include urban schools, Native schools, schools in small communities and those with shifting demographics.

Santee Middle School in Niobrara and Loup County Elementary in Taylor will remain priority schools for another year.

The schools were chosen from a pool of 87 in the lowest of four classifications in the state-mandated accountability system. The system classifies all of Nebraska’s 1,130 schools and 245 districts into four levels: excellent, great, good and needs improvement.

The department hasn't reclassified schools since it first did so in December 2015.

Because state law allows the department to name only three priority schools at a time, it had yet to include one with large demographic shifts, so it decided to focus its attention there, said Deb Frison, the Nebraska Department of Education’s deputy commissioner of school improvement.

In 2005, 90 percent of Schuyler's students were white. Now, 87 percent are Hispanic and just 10 percent are white.


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