DOE online survey ranks areas of need in schools
Parents of Hawaii public school students are calling for more courses on art, music and technology, smaller class size and new teaching materials, according to a survey.
The Education Department conducted an online survey this spring to rank the areas of "highest need" in schools. Feedback came from 308 people, including school workers, parents and the general public. Respondents were asked to choose five priorities.
Topping the list, at 11 percent, was a need for more instruction of non-core subjects like business, computer technology and communication arts. Having fewer students in a class received 10 percent of the votes while upgrading classroom materials and textbooks garnered 9 percent.
The importance for schools to have qualified teachers ranked No. 4 on the list.
Education Department Budget Director Adele Chong said the results mirror findings of last year's inaugural Web survey. She said officials would use the data next year to lobby for funds from the Legislature to address those issues.
The Education Department was unable to get more money this year because lawmakers restricted spending in light of the state's weakening economy, she said. Instead, the schools' $2 billion-plus budget was lowered by about $20 million for the upcoming 2008-09 academic year.
Room for improvement
Here's what parents of Hawaii public school students, school employees and the general public believe are the areas of highest need at isle campuses, according to an Education Department survey of 308 people. Each respondent was asked to pick five priorities.
1. Availability of programs/courses in non-core areas such as business, computer technology, communication arts, music, performing arts (161 votes).
2. Smaller class size (148 votes).
3. Classroom supplies, materials, textbooks (133 votes).
4. Teacher quality (126 votes).
5. Personnel, resources/services to improve student performance (124 votes).
6. Reading and comprehension (118 votes).
7. Safe school environment (116 votes).
8. Math skills/application (104 votes).
9. Well-maintained campuses and buildings (91 votes).
10. Professional development of teachers and administrators (80 votes).
Source: State Department of Education
Chong said her office is focusing on reducing expenses while leaving classroom programs intact.
"What I'm going to do is try as hard as I can to look for other places to cut the budget," she said.
Education officials are proposing eliminating numerous positions and trimming administrative expenses to absorb the shortfall. They also might raise fees for busing, lunches, adult education and the A+ afterschool program.
Survey respondents also were concerned about whether teachers are qualified to teach their subjects, with 126 of them looking for improvements in that area. In January, the Education Department said that about 2,900 teachers, or 22 percent, were not considered "highly qualified" by the federal government.
The Education Department set a goal of having 80 percent of its teachers highly qualified by the end of the just-completed school year, said Amy Shimamoto, personnel specialist in the induction and professional development section. She could not immediately say whether that target was reached.
The state has been working with Oregon-based School Synergy under a $250,000 contract to help teachers meet federal standards.
The 11-question survey, conducted between mid-April and May 31, also cited class size as another priority even as public school enrollment has slipped to 178,369 from a peak of more than 189,000 about a decade ago.
Hawaii Board of Education policy sets the optimum student-teacher ratio at 20-to-1 for kindergarten through third grade and 26-to-1 for higher grades. Education officials could not say whether schools exceed those guidelines.
Meanwhile, the desire for more courses in non-core subjects could be linked to the demands of the No Child Left Behind law, which requires all students to be able to read and solve math problems at their grade level by 2014.
Since the law took effect in 2002, most school districts nationwide, 62 percent of them, have increased time for math and English for elementary students, according to a study done last year by the nonpartisan Center on Education Policy.