Isle DOE seeks new standards of success
Several states pursue alternatives to a law viewed as too rigid
Hawaii is seeking to become one of a select few states to pilot a proposed new way of measuring student achievement that could eventually ease the pressure of the federal No Child Left Behind law.
Hawaii has put together a proposal under which each student's progress would be measured over time, and will submit it to the federal Department of Education this week.
The Bush administration plans to allow up to 10 states to pilot such models, which would give states credit for improving student performance over time.
Such "growth models" are seen as a possible future alternative to No Child Left Behind's current system, which labels schools as failing unless steadily rising percentages of their students score "proficient" in key subject areas on standardized tests.
The 2001 law has come under fire from many states as too rigid.
Around 15 states have applied for the pilot or are expected to.
If Hawaii's proposal is accepted, the state would still have to abide by the current system for the foreseeable future, said Robert McClelland, director of the Hawaii Department of Education's planning and evaluation section.
"It doesn't do away with what's in place now; it just adds another component to it," he said.
The federal government will monitor the various models and eventually decide whether additional states could be allowed to use them, he said.
A growth model could be a promising option for Hawaii. Though most of the state's 280-plus public schools failed to meet targets in testing last spring, many showed significant improvements over the previous year.
"It's more realistic," said Bradley Odagiri, principal of Hauula Elementary, which moved into good standing under No Child Left Behind last year after showing marked improvement from the previous year.
"Federal law says all kids have to be proficient by 2014. That's impossible," he said.
About half of the state's public schools are in some stage of sanctions under the law after missing test-score targets. The sanctions range from allowing students to transfer to better-performing schools in the early stages, to state-directed reform of schools that fail to make the grade over several years.
The federal government has been vague on the post-pilot period, but McClelland expects that even if states are allowed someday to replace today's rules with growth models, high expectations would remain.
"My belief is that they're not going to scrap everything, but may allow this modified way of tracking progress without diminishing high expectations for student growth," he said.
The application deadline is tomorrow. Hawaii should know by June whether its proposal was accepted, McClelland said.
No Child Left Behind is set for a tough reauthorization battle in Congress next year, and even some Republicans are calling for more flexibility. The results of the experimental program could affect the debate.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.