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Sunday, February 9, 2003



[ OUR OPINION ]

Students’ test scores
show hard work ahead


THE ISSUE

Public school students make a poor showing in a first-time test of math and reading proficiency.


ALTHOUGH expected, results of a test taken by public school students to measure their proficiency in math and reading were sobering and display the formidable undertaking ahead. With the majority of scores falling below acceptable levels, Hawaii's students face steep scholastic climbs and will need the full efforts of educators and, even more important, their parents.

The test carries the weighty title of Hawaii Content and Performance Standards State Assessment. Administered for the first time last April, it is the baseline for measuring compliance with the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which requires students to show steady improvement in learning with all reaching proficiency in 10 years.

Hawaii's test was formulated to be more demanding than nationwide tests, setting goals high in hopes of stimulating progress toward better education, and the scores perhaps reflect its rigor. Only about 20 percent of students showed proficiency in math and about 40 percent in reading. More encouraging, however, is that a majority of children are ranked as close to reaching acceptable levels.

Overall test scores are important for school officials, educators and political leaders in gauging compliance with the law, but individual scores should be even more important to parents. They indicate where a child may require more help and parents can use the information to discuss with teachers and counselors a student's needs for improvement.

Parental attention and aid are recognized as pivotal in their children's education, so much so that a school system in Pennsylvania is proposing that parents be graded on how involved they are -- whether they attend parent-teacher conferences, prepare their children for the school day and respond to forms and questionnaires their children bring home.

The idea seems somewhat invasive, but it emphasizes research that shows successful students have parents who take part in their education. Many parents do recognize this and see Hawaii's centralized school system as part of the difficulty in their participation. Governor Lingle's proposal that the Board of Education be divided into several district boards has gained support because of this.

Whether Lingle's plan is the solution hinges on its details, but resolving issues about school governance will only go so far. Excellence in education ultimately rests in a well-equipped, safe classroom with a competent, motivated teacher, a child physically and mentally prepared to learn and parents who are attentive and engaged. When these are in place, test scores will have nowhere to go but up.



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Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, Publisher

Frank Bridgewater, Editor 529-4791; fbridgewater@starbulletin.com
Michael Rovner, Assistant Editor 529-4768; mrovner@starbulletin.com
Lucy Young-Oda, Assistant Editor 529-4762; lyoungoda@starbulletin.com

Mary Poole, Editorial Page Editor, 529-4748; mpoole@starbulletin.com
John Flanagan, Contributing Editor 294-3533; jflanagan@starbulletin.com

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