170 schools miss steeper targets
More Hawaii students test proficient in math and reading, however
STORY SUMMARY »
More Hawaii public school students know how to read and solve math problems at their grade level compared with last year.
That's the good news.
The downside is that more than half of isle schools are lagging behind federal progress benchmarks to ensure all students are proficient by a 2014 deadline.
In all, 60 percent of schools, or 170 out of 283, failed to meet annual goals under the No Child Left Behind law. That is a sharp increase from the 35 percent, or 98 schools, that flunked last year.
Schools Superintendent Pat Hamamoto said she predicted more schools would miss the testing targets because the targets rose for the first time in three years. But she praised student scores showing slow but continuing improvement.
Sixty-two percent of students tested in this spring's Hawaii State Assessment scored proficient in reading, up from 60 percent a year ago, according to results released yesterday. In math, 43 percent of them were proficient, compared with 39 percent last year.
"The steady growth in proficiency levels achieved by our students is positive news," Hamamoto said. "However, we must remain vigilant in our efforts to continually meet" federal testing standards.
More than 91,500 students from third through eighth grade as well as 10th grade took the exam.
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Hawaii public school students improved in math and reading over last year, test results released yesterday show, but a majority of isle schools still missed annual progress goals.
Sixty-two percent of students tested in this spring's Hawaii State Assessment scored proficient in reading, up from 60 percent a year ago. In math, 43 percent of them were proficient, compared with 39 percent last year.
Despite the better results, more schools failed to reach steeper benchmarks set under the No Child Left Behind law.
In all, 60 percent of schools, or 170 out of 283, missed so-called Adequate Yearly Progress, compared with 35 percent, or 98 schools, that did not make the grade last year.
The law requires a greater percentage of students to be proficient each year. By 2014, it says, all students should be able to read and solve math problems at their grade level.
For example, for the past three years, 28 percent of a school's students had to meet standards in math and 44 percent in reading. That rose to 46 percent in math and 58 percent in reading this year, putting more pressure on schools.
Charter schools also struggled, with only seven of 28 hitting those marks, down from 18 that passed a year ago.
State education officials, who predicted more schools would flunk this year because of the higher targets, remained encouraged by the growing percentage of students becoming proficient over the years.
"It tells us at least that the system is resilient," Schools Assistant Superintendent Daniel Hamada said. "I feel there is a sense of hope."
But Board of Education member Karen Knudsen said some of the test results, like those showing about 40 percent of students in grades three, four, five and six unable to read at their level, worried her.
"Although we are moving ... in the right direction, I still have concerns," she said.
Failure to keep up with the government's rising testing benchmarks triggers escalating sanctions. The stiffest is a broad school reform known as restructuring, which entails intervention by outside educational agencies at state and federal expense to bring students up to speed.
And while fewer isle schools face penalties this year -- 128, from 162 a year ago -- those being restructured jumped to 81 from 48 last year. Four charter schools are among those in restructuring.
This year's test results are in sharp contrast to 2007, when education officials praised students for the first significant improvement in reading and math in six years of testing. But critics noted the exam was based on new standards, and questioned whether problems were "dumbed down."
Education officials later acknowledged the comparison was misleading. But they defended the test's new version, saying grade-specific topics had replaced previous content that quizzed students on materials they had not been taught.
Many educators here and across the nation criticize the law as unfair because schools do not get credit for overall improvements if groups of students fail. They say schools should be rewarded for gains by poor and minority students even if they place below testing benchmarks.
At Niu Valley Middle, most students exceeded federal math and reading expectations, but lower scores posted by their special-education classmates hurt the school's status, said Principal Justin Mew.
"When we look at all students, we know that we are doing well," he said. "This NCLB all-or-nothing is difficult."
Mew said teachers would target instruction to special-education students, who represent 12 percent of the school's population, to avoid missing yearly progress two years in a row, which is when sanctions kick in.
Board of Education member Maggie Cox urged education officials yesterday to gather and share data about what is working in successful schools -- especially in seven schools that exited restructuring -- to help the board allocate resources more effectively.
"I feel like I'm making decisions in the dark," said Cox, who represents Kauai. "I want to help the classroom teacher."
The state Education Department has been trying to gain approval by the federal government to grade schools by individual student progress, a method that should lead to fewer schools facing sanctions. But problems devising a system to track students have prevented Hawaii from adopting a so-called growth model, which some states already use.
Hawaii also was interested in a federal program giving states more flexibility to help failing schools by targeting money for reforms at campuses with the most needs, but the state did not apply for it this year because it failed to meet some requirements.