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State Board of Ed Member Deborah Neary responds after controversial comments on 'proficiency scores'

Posted at 10:29 PM, Sep 28, 2022

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — A Nebraska State Board of Education member is being criticized for her comments on standardized testing.

During a candidate forum in Millard Tuesday, State Board of Ed member Deborah Neary was criticized by her opponent that the most recent Nebraska proficiency scores, which average out standardized testing results, were too low.

“As a state, our proficiency scores are all below 50%,” said Hodgen.

Neary then responded, “Proficiency scores don’t tell you anything that our students are achieving,” said Neary.

You can hear gasps from some members of the crowd after. On Wednesday, Republican candidate for Governor Jim Pillen said in a statement “The fact that she supports lowering proficiency scores is giving up on our kids.”

Longtime Millard School Board member Mike Kennedy said he was shocked by the comments and proficiency scores “in Millard, they mean a lot,” said Kennedy.

Her opponent, Hodgen, spoke to KFAB radio on Wednesday and pointed to the Education Department’s goals on their website.

“Clearly they’re advocating for them on their own website yet here we have a current board member who is basically saying they don’t matter,” said Hodgen.

It's true thatNebraska's proficiency scores were at or below 50 percent in all subjects tested for both grade school and high school.

The Department of Education tells 3 News Now those numbers were accumulated in a covid year when some students were not in the classroom and the numbers are worse than past years.

3 News Now spoke with Neary about her comments.

Nearly said those assessments are useful tools but points to numbers from the ‘Nation’s Report Card’, where Nebraska is much higher and well above the national average.

“It’s the only one that asks questions that are the same across the state so we can see how we’re doing,” said Neary.

She said comparing proficiency scores between states is not an apples-to-apples comparison.

“They are not a comparison of how Nebraska is doing in comparison to anywhere else because our questions are completely different, our cut scores are different,” said Neary.

Hodgen told KFAB that assessments are an important tool to gauge educators as well.

“By getting that information on how our students our performing then we can hold teachers and administrations accountable,” said Hodgen.

Neary is seeking her second term in office. Hodgen is a political newcomer.

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