School rating system is as bad as scores
The percentage of Hawaii public schools failing to meet federal No Child Left Behind requirements is second-lowest in the nation.
HAWAII public schools slipped drastically in the most recent ratings
of compliance with the requirements of the No Child Left Behind law, and the consequences are severe. Because it places schools not making "adequate yearly progress" two years in a row under federal sanctions that allow students to transfer from failing schools to those with passing scores, the measurements are distorted.
Only 34 percent of Hawaii's schools achieved "adequate yearly progress" last year, which means test scores failed to show overall improvement in addition to gains by minority students, poor students, students with limited English skills and those with disabilities. Schools also must have increasing percentages of students proficient in math and reading.
The share of Hawaii schools failing to meet those goals fell from 51 percent the previous year, ahead of only Florida's 28 percent. However, comparisons are flawed, since states are allowed to design their own tests.
For example, first-place Oklahoma made a "technical change" in its state accountability system that resulted in 97 percent of schools making the grade, compared to 75 percent in the previous year, according to one expert. The high stakes in the test scores result in "people playing games," says Randy Hitz, dean of the University of Hawaii's College of Education.
As schools make changes aimed at improving test scores, most have reduced instructional time in at least one other subject, such as science or civics, to allow more time for teaching reading and mathematics, according to a national study by the Center on Education Policy. That is not the kind of curriculum tweaking needed to prepare the next generation.
A broader approach is needed. The House Finance Committee today will consider a bill that would advance a grade-by-grade "core knowledge" curriculum that has been remarkably successful at Solomon and Kauluwela elementary schools. Upgrading the curriculum to equip students to meet high standards is far preferable than the route taken by Oklahoma.
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