Isle schools get average marks
Low grades in teacher quality and school climate hurt the state's ranking in a survey
Public education in Hawaii earned a "C+," matching the national average in a nationwide assessment of state school systems, but changes in the annual report deprived the state of a higher grade.
Hawaii's overall grade resulted from its combined marks in "standards and accountability" (B+), "efforts to improve teacher quality" (C-) and "school climate" (C), as determined by Education Week's "Quality Counts 2006," the magazine's yearly state-by-state report card.
The grades in those three areas were unchanged over the previous year.
However, the magazine ceased issuing a grade for Hawaii on how equitably education resources are distributed statewide, which dragged down the state's overall grade.
Hawaii routinely earned an "A" in funding equity by virtue of having the country's only statewide school district. The magazine this year gave Hawaii an "N/A" this year, saying the single district made comparisons with other states inappropriate.
"We're the most equitable of all the states, so they eliminate us from that? That's really not fair," said Department of Education spokesman Greg Knudsen.
In past years, the magazine did not award an overall grade.
Hawaii maintained its "B+" on "standards and accountability," which refers to what a state expects its students to learn in a range of subjects and whether it holds students, teachers and schools to account for achieving that. The national average was "B-".
The DOE has continually refined its highly detailed standards over the years. Schools will begin using a much-simplified version in the next school year that officials say will make it easier for students to learn and for teachers to teach.
The magazine's report grades states on whether their standards are "clear, specific and grounded in content." The magazine noted also that Hawaii sanctions low-performing schools and provides them assistance to help boost student achievement.
DOE officials have said years of disappointing results on standardized statewide tests administered in schools might have been due partly to too many or poorly constructed standards that were difficult to teach. "Now that we've got a good system in place, the hope is that student achievement will follow suit," Knudsen said.
Hawaii's overall grade was hurt by the continued subpar marks in teacher quality and school climate.
The report cited the department's failure to require that all high school or middle school teachers obtain majors in the subjects they will teach in order to receive a beginning-teacher license.
On school climate, Hawaii scored well on some measures like class size and school facilities, but was hurt by its marks on parent involvement and the large size of many Hawaii schools. The national averages on teacher quality and school climate were both "C+".
One of the report's key findings -- its annual rankings on how much each state spends on education -- was unavailable yesterday after errors in the data were discovered, Education Week representatives said. They said corrected rankings could be released today.