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The purpose of this explanatory mixed methods study was to explore the perceptions of Nebraska teachers about their experiences in the transition from STARS to NeSA. The study explored their perceptions of the influence of the transition on implementation of a balanced assessment system. As defined by NDE, a balanced system included NeSA testing, local criterion-referenced assessments, and national norm-referenced testing. The timing of this study was concurrent with the transition from the STARS assessment system to the NeSA assessment system in Nebraska.
Parallel studies of teachers and administrators consisted of administrators and teachers in 166 public school districts within Nebraska’s 3rd Congressional District. A total of 449 educators participated in the parallel studies, including 115 administrators and 334 teachers. The major findings of the study were that educators, both administrators and teachers, were generally positive about assessment and its importance in the teaching and learning process. STARS was generally seen as positive as it related to student learning and instruction. Teachers were more involved in the STARS process than were administrators. Most educators thought that NeSA was more about accountability than STARS, but that NeSA did have benefits for the education of students as well. The transition between STARS and NeSA was seen as slightly more positive by administrators than it was by teachers. Both groups indicated that little was done to prepare for the transition between the two systems. Relative to the overarching question concerning the prevalence of a balanced assessment system, teachers and administrators see the potential value of a balanced assessment system, but have struggled with implementation.