Wednesday, June 19, 2002

State of Hawaii

Officials dispute
Hawaii’s latest
educational ranking

The poor grades are blamed on
the state not participating
in the national survey

By Lisa Asato

A new national report ranks Hawaii second-worst in the country when it comes to standards-testing programs, but Hawaii received the poor grades because the state Department of Education didn't participate and received "zero" scores in areas in which information wasn't publicly accessible.

"They have no basis for entering zeros and ranking us last," said department spokesman Greg Knudsen.

"Testing the Testers 2002" was released today by The Princeton Review, which is primarily known for preparing students for college and graduate school admissions tests.

This is its first report on accountability systems in public schools.

Hawaii was the only state that didn't participate, said Steve Hodas, the study's author.

Scores of "zero" were given when information was not publicly accessible and Hawaii accounted for 15 of the 35 such scores in the nation.

Knudsen said the department had valid reasons for not participating and that Hawaii should not have been included in the study.

Those reasons include the department's reservations about participating in a study run by a commercial group as well as the state issuing its first standards-based tests this spring after delaying it a year because of a statewide teachers strike.

"If we had filled out their survey based on what was current, it would have presented Hawaii in a very unfair and unflattering perspective," he said. "And it just would have been inaccurate. It doesn't represent where we are right now."

Hodas said disclosure is especially important in Hawaii, which has a unified school district in which the state both sets the standards and tests for them.

He also said it was important that parents be able to access the information because schools may use standards-based test results to hold a student back a grade, withhold a diploma or to force them to take summer school.

"There's no way to find out the truth," he said. "If we can't find it out then the chances of the average parent being able to find it out are zero and that's not right."

Knudsen disagreed, saying: "There's no evidence that would support that kind of reckless statement. ... That kind of consultation is always available through the teacher and the student's records, so yes (parents would continue to have access)."

The rankings were based on 25 indicators in four categories:

>> How well the test measures the state's standards;

>> Test quality;

>> Openness of the testing program to public scrutiny, including informing people which topics will be tested so they can prepare;

>> And to what extent the results are used to improve schools.

North Carolina, Texas and New York led the nation, while West Virginia, Hawaii and Iowa rounded out the bottom.

Hawaii received a "two," the highest score possible for three of the indicators, including for having support systems to help struggling schools and students improve.

State Department of Education

E-mail to City Desk


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