Our generation of students gives me hope

In August my wife and I were checking out at Hy-Vee, and the student who was bagging our groceries looked straight at me and said he hoped this was the year Lincoln Public Schools kids would get their true allotment of snow days.  My wife asked him what he meant – and he indicated all students are aware there are four “extra” days built into the calendar. He said the school district has not been very good at meeting our obligation. I smiled, laughed and indicated I would do my very best this year.

This young man actually left an impression with me.  He was articulate, humorous and communicated his point very well. I left the store thinking that our public schools are doing a lot of things right. In fact, recent numbers and scores affirm that thinking.  The release of the Nebraska State Accountability (NeSA) student achievement scores showed LPS as above the state averages in most of the measured areas.  ACT scores, despite the fact that ALL of our LPS juniors now take it (rare across the country) were stable. (The ACT is one of the most common standardized college entrance examinations.)

Of course, we have areas for continued improvement but I have to state the obvious: Despite a rapidly growing student enrollment, 400 new teachers in each of the last two years, higher numbers of students in poverty and more than 60 cultures actively represented in our schools, the achievement needle continues to move up.  This is due, in no small part, to the support of a very generous community that prioritizes education – as well as to the incredibly talented and committed employees who work together to make dreams happen.  As a person who gets to visit all of our schools, I leave each one proud of what is taking place in those learning cultures.

Thank you to all.

Politics are an inevitable part of our daily lives, and there are people who continue to become agitated about what students or teachers should or should not do.  Many of these arguments are passionate and purposeful. And it would be easy to read the commentary and deduce that this generation of young people will destroy American values and traditions.  But I might point out: America has always grown stronger by citizens who challenge the status quo and embrace change, while ultimately continuing to take care of one another.

In fact, that is exactly what you will see if you visit our schools. We are a pluralistic school district where students are constantly learning from each other – and growing as people. I have great confidence this generation will do what the previous generations have. They will figure it out and continue moving our city, state and country forward.

Don’t believe me?   Come and visit our schools.

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Stephen Joel

About Stephen Joel

Dr. Steve Joel is the Superintendent of Lincoln Public Schools. A native of Long Island, New York, with degrees from Doane College, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Kansas State, Dr. Joel has extensive experience as a superintendent in Kansas and Nebraska. Prior to coming to Lincoln, he served for ten years as superintendent in Grand Island and eight years in Beatrice.