New exam clouds school testing gains
Public school students have made major improvement in test scores.
THOUGH Hawaii public school students showed dramatic improvement
in their annual test scores, some Board of Education members are skeptical about the results because they are based on a new test.
Board members have a valid reason for their doubts, but should not dismiss the results as simply a gaming of tests until they take a closer look at the fine print. As the new exam is administered in ensuing years, results should provide a clearer picture of how well schools are educating students.
For the first time since federal law began requiring the tests, an all-time high of 170 Hawaii public schools -- 60.3 percent -- met progress standards, as compared to 100 schools in 2005-06. In addition, 60 percent of students scored well enough to meet the proficiency benchmark in reading, while last year 47 percent did.
Progress in math, however, lagged with 38 percent proficient, but that, too, was an improvement from the previous level of 27 percent.
Even so, the change in tests clouds the assessment of the progress students appear to have made.
The Department of Education defends the results, saying the new tests are aimed more specifically at each grade level and at material children have studied. But board members question whether the tests were made easier, pointing out that this year the number of schools meeting progress standards was the first since 2003-04 that more schools passed than failed. There are still 111 schools that failed to make adequate progress and 162 remain under various sanctions.
Meanwhile, the 11 troubled schools that improved enough to see sanctions removed should be congratulated, and the students who did well on the tests deserve a pat on the back.
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