New standards-based report cards gain support of most schools
Most of Hawaii's 178 elementary schools plan to stick with a complex new report card despite being given the choice of abandoning it amid concerns it was poorly designed and took teachers too long to fill out.
Out of 157 schools that have notified the Department of Education of their intentions, 133 have decided to continue using the new standards-based grade report, according to the department.
Only seven schools have taken up the department's offer to shelve the new format and revert to the traditional report card until the next school year. Another 17 will use some sort of computer template based on the new format instead of the current paper version.
The department offered schools the three options last month after the Hawaii State Teachers Association criticized the new report cards.
The responses show schools remain committed to standards-based education and the goals of the new report card, said Kathy Kawaguchi, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.
"A lot of hard work went into the report cards, and we've got more to do but we'll get better," she said. "But it's a matter of getting it out there, giving it a try and then getting the feedback and refining things."
The teachers union had called for the expanded report cards to be scrapped, complaining that teachers were being asked to provide far more information than before, an extra workload compounded by design flaws in the four-section report.
Staff at many schools had put in considerable time and effort on planning and discussing how to implement the new system.
At Helemano Elementary, teachers voted unanimously not to let that effort go to waste, said Principal Dennis Kato.
"Our teachers worked hard to get prepared for the new report card and to inform our community about it. We felt it was better to stick with what we have and move forward rather than backward," he said.
Kawaguchi said beginning in late February, the department plans to convene school focus groups as well as bring back together 10 schools that originally piloted the report cards for two years, hoping to come up with improvements by next fall.
The department says the new report cards more accurately reflect how children are learning under the state's standards-based academic system.
The new grading format features more information on how individual students are progressing toward meeting "proficiency" in each subject. A new system of letter grades ranges from "meets proficiency with excellence" (ME) all the way down to "well below proficiency" (U).
Kawaguchi said one area of focus in the coming discussions will be how to apply the new report card at the kindergarten level. Some teachers are concerned that it does not address important emotional issues and socialization skills, she said.
Hawaii's new elementary school report cards are aimed at providing a more accurate picture of how students are faring in the state's standards-based system. Below are some key differences between traditional education systems and standards-based systems.
- Curriculum based on topics and/or textbooks
- Teacher delivers lessons based on activities
- Teacher gives a test or a final project at end of unit
- Students are not aware of criteria for assessing their work
- Teachers set the criteria
- Teacher gives a grade for the unit
- Teacher moves on to a new topic
- Requirements are set by the teacher
- Student learning does not reflect progress
- Penalizes students for taking risks
- All students are taught the same way
- Standards are not defined
- Curriculum based on standards
- Lessons help to identify what students must know and be able to do
- Assessments occur continuously with instruction and inform both the learner and the teacher
- Students and parents are aware of what good performance looks like
- Students are involved in setting criteria and in self-assessment in reaching criteria
- Teacher assesses learning and examines results for reteaching
- Teacher and students evaluate, make judgements and communicate results
- Requirements set by standards
- Multiple opportunities to achieve -- extended time and support to help with achievement
- Student progress detailed with feedback that helps students get better at learning
- Encourages risk-taking
- Meets the diverse needs and learning styles of students
- Standards establish high expectations for all students and are clearly defined
Source: Hawaii Department of Education