Our Side of the Story
Patricia Hamamoto

Sunday, April 3, 2005

Hawaii’s schools
embrace accountability

In a front-page article March 29, the Star-Bulletin erroneously and unjustly ranked Hawaii's public schools against school districts nationwide, despite clear admonitions against doing so by the author of the Education Commission of the States report.

The headline -- "Hawaii schools worst" -- combined with the inaccurate statements and conclusions drawn in the article have done a grave injustice to school children, parents, teachers and educators across our state. Such conclusions devalue education and undermine the work that public schools are doing to prepare students to be full-fledged citizens of their communities. Hawaii's public school educators and employees are dedicated to providing a quality education for every child and they deserve to be recognized for their work.

At the core of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) is accountability for student performance. Public schools are required to attend to the needs of all students and to hold these students to high expectations, regardless of their backgrounds. The Hawaii State Department of Education and each of our public schools have fully embraced our responsibility. We are committed and accountable for this charge. We have not shied away from what the federal law is asking us to do because ultimately the law helps us help our children to succeed.

NCLB requires states to develop a sequence of progressive consequences and actions for schools that fail to make "adequate yearly progress." "Restructuring" is the last and the most "intrusive" in that series of consequences. This last action helps to ensure we develop the capacity and the expertise to meet the varied and challenging needs of our student populations. And, is a means by which our schools will receive the focused and sustained assistance they need to improve student performance.

Last Tuesday's article stated that Hawaii had an early start in implementing No Child Left Behind's accountability provisions. This is inaccurate. Prior to NCLB, all Title I schools were required to meet adequate yearly progress benchmarks under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). When Congress reauthorized ESEA, NCLB continued the concept of adequate yearly progress and expanded it to include all schools. Title I schools were required to retain their school improvement status or designation upon the enactment of NCLB.

The department has interpreted the mandate to change as an opportunity to make a difference. Our restructured schools will benefit from this opportunity to establish best practices that will focus their efforts so that no child is left behind.

We appreciate the opportunity to provide clarification and to share the strides the Department of Education is making in addressing the provisions of No Child Left Behind.

Patricia Hamamoto is superintendent of schools of the state Department of Education.

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