Hawaii's public education woes call for smart solution
HAWAII is worn out with headlines saying "Hawaii's public school students continue to fail in meeting standards." The stories also say, "More schools are currently restructuring because of students failing to meet expectations for more than two consecutive years."
We have a dilemma: Do we allow the state Department of Education and Board of Education to wait another two years when all 285 schools are being restructured because of student failures?
I believe we owe our students an education to meet the standards and provide them an opportunity at life. Failure of our students to meet approved standards in the public schools is not an option.
The failure of our students is a failure by the leadership in the DOE, BOE and the Legislature. When two-thirds -- 191 out of 285 -- of schools fail to meet the adopted standards, it is a failure of leadership.
What about the fiasco with the weighted student formula? The WSF was to determine school funding by classifying students and was to be managed by principals. Today, the formula has caused many at the schools to throw up their hands and give up. People are hurt by being jerked around with losing their position, then being informed that they have been reinstated and now remain in limbo until a final WSF decision is made.
Is there a solution for student failures? You bet. This is how we do it:
» The DOE accepts the fact that it is failing Hawaii's students.
» The BOE must accept that lowering the standards is a public relations ploy to hide the truth that more students are failing the current standards.
» The Legislature must accept that it is the cause of student failure in the public schools by micromanaging the DOE.
Act 51 allows for the principals of the complex to meet and discuss various challenges that are presented by the individual schools' community councils. These meetings are currently attended by the principals of the feeder schools and the complex-area superintendent.
THE MEETINGS are presenting the awareness of a need for a "complex community council" or similar group to approve policy for continuity of academic curriculum from kindergarten through grade 12 and the approving a comprehensive financial plan to ensure the success of the academic curriculum that is measurable.
What does the high school complex accomplish? It will have a complex council of elected parents and community leaders representing each feeder school. The policy decisions will be to improve the student performance by teaching from a focused academic curriculum that is established from the kindergarten and carried through each school year until graduation from high school.
There will be various vertical curriculums to allow students to move from one vertical track into another once they are ready to move ahead.
These vertical tracks are in any adopted discipline -- art, music, Hawaiian studies, athletics, English, math, history, science and as many others as the complex community council agree to establish and fund.
Another intent of Act 51 was the restructuring the DOE to de-link certain rights, powers, functions and duties from various state departments.
WE MUST go further in de-linking certain rights, powers, functions and duties from the superintendent, complex-area superintendents and their staff from the high school complex to reduce the existing bureaucracy that hampers student performance.
The high school complex schools will determine their own school schedule, academic curriculum, financial plan to fund their adopted vertical academic curriculum, evaluate student progress based on weekly measurable goals and provide all the assistance necessary to support the teachers in accomplishing accepted goals.
Act 51 clearly states, "302A-1301 (a) Beginning with the 1995-1997 fiscal biennium, the department's administrative expenditures shall not exceed 6.5 percent of the total department operating budget unless approved by the Legislature. (b) Not less than seventy percent of appropriations for the total budget of the department, excluding debt service and capital improvement programs, shall be expended by principals."
THE HIGH school complex must operate with 70 percent of the legislative appropriations, less debt service and capital improvement programs. The DOE must conform to the law and have the appropriations for the school year 2006-2007 of $2.055 billion less $616 million, which leaves a balance of $1.439 billion for the 42 high school complexes. The $1.439 billion averages $34.3 million per high school complex and an average of some $7,994 per student.
The current complex-area superintendents, the educational specialists and the state DOE staff will become third-party administrative supporters of the high school complex. The state administration must get out of the way as it is the obstacle in improving student performance.
Without question, we all understand that there must be compliance by the complex for mandated federal programs.
The DOE and BOE administrations must establish the statewide goals, then get out of the way and let the qualified teachers and entrepreneurial principal, who have become accountable for student success through Act 51, do their jobs within the high school complex.
Jimmy Kuroiwa is director of Hawaii Laborers-Employers Cooperation Educational Trust of the Laborers' Union Local 368. He serve as the elected community member on the Kapunahala Elementary School Community Council and as a member of the Education Council on Public Education with the Chamber of Commerce.