Monday, March 2, 1998

Chun fires back


° Below: Chun takes issue point-by-point with Lindsey's criticisms. Plus, a look at SAT scores.
° Tomorrow: Chun addresses outreach programs and spending.

By Debra Barayuga


It was founded in 1887 for students of Hawaiian ancestry, on the will of a princess. Kamehameha Schools, beneficiary of the estimated $10 billion Bishop Estate, is now caught in a cross-fire of politics, a state investigation into questionable investments and spending, charges of favoritism in student admissions, and controversy over educational quality.

Three months ago, trustee Lokelani Lindsey threw the door wide open on the latter with a report criticizing the schools' quality -- and Schools President Michael J. Chun.

While Lindsey and other trustees repeatedly make headlines, Chun has remained doggedly silent. But in a recent report to trustees defending his leadership, he fires back at Lindsey's criticisms.

The report gives a rare public review of student test scores, treatment of faculty and spending habits at the schools. From million-dollar outreach programs down to $4.24-per-person receptions hosted by Chun, the terse report also captures the underlying tension between him and Lindsey.


IN A NEW 195-page rebuttal to trustee Lokelani Lindsey's scathing criticisms of his management of Kamehameha Schools, President Michael Chun says student achievement in key tests over the past decade proves the schools' effectiveness.

Chun's report, submitted earlier this year to the five Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate trustees, gives a point-by-point counter to Lindsey's knocks, according to a copy obtained by the Star-Bulletin.

In a statement with the report, Chun disputed Lindsey's assertion that the schools face "serious problems" with quality.

"The quality of education that Kamehameha's students receive is of the highest caliber," he wrote, noting they excel in academics but also in music, the arts and athletics.

Lindsey, lead trustee for education until August, last December released a report criticizing performance and curriculum at Kamehameha, the second-largest independent school in the nation. That report was a political attempt to oust Chun as schools president, her critics have charged. It was such an outcry over Lindsey's micromanagement at the schools that helped spur the state attorney general's current investigation into charges of fiduciary mismanagement by the KSBE trustees.

In defending the schools, Chun's report cites positive student performance on:

° Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT), widely known as the College Board.

Average verbal scores improved from 483 in 1981, to 515 in 1997, Chun said.

He also said that since 1988, Kamehameha seniors have met or exceeded average verbal SAT scores from Hawaii and nationally. (A Star-Bulletin review of scores, however, showed verbal dipping just under the national average in 1992.)

In math, since matching national and Hawaii averages in 1981 with a score of 502, Kamehameha's scores soared to 557 in 1997, Chun said.

° College Outcome Measures Program (COMP). This shows writing and speaking skills of Kamehameha seniors, on a national average, are better than other incoming college freshmen. In writing, Kamehameha students rose from a 35 percentile in 1986 to an 80 percentile in 1996, Chun said.

° National Merit Scholarship Program. Where Kamehameha had nine semi-finalists during 1981-88, it had 26 in 1989-96.

Chun also touts rising enrollment in advanced-placement courses over the last 17 years as more focus has been put on a college-prep curriculum -- from a low of 53 in 1988 to 139 in 1997.

He also notes growing enrollment in four-year colleges. Although graduating classes are bigger now than in the 1980s, Chun said, the number of Kamehameha students in college immediately after graduation has grown from 54 percent in 1981 to 74 percent in 1996.

Chun, however, does note weakness in some areas. Average test scores for incoming seventh-graders have dropped; however, their average SAT scores as they move up grade levels increase with each year, he said.


SATs and the bottom line

The clearest demonstration of program impact is in the College Board SAT scores, said Kathleen Kukea, coordinator of curriculum and planning at Kamehameha's secondary schools and a co-author of Chun's report.

Despite dropping scores for students entering seventh grade, average SAT scores when they exit Kamehameha have increased and are comparable to the national norm, Kukea said.

"Our kids will be competing in college classrooms around the country, and if they're scoring at or better, we would expect them to be successful," she said.

A July 1996 report on test scores from K-12 provides a more comprehensive picture of student progress and achievement, said Kukea. "The bottom line is, when compared to a similar population of kids, our kids either matched or showed better growth."

Results need to be looked at in light of the school's mission and its population, she said. "We're doing an outstanding job with kids with whom we're entrusted."

Still, much work still needs to be done to improve, she said. "We know areas we can do a better job and will address those, but overall I will hold our program and faculty members up against any program in the nation. It's an excellent program."

Criticism, and a drop in morale

It was Lindsey's perceived meddling at the schools that sent campus morale plummeting, causing an internal turmoil that eventually exposed dysfunction there -- and in the boardroom of the Bishop Estate's trustees.

Though commending students and teachers, Lindsey was critical of the schools' curriculum, which she said lacked specific goals from one grade to the next.

Not so, Chun responds in his report. An articulated curriculum has been in place for many years at the elementary and secondary level. Teachers meet continually to review objectives and ensure continuity and increased complexity as students move from one grade to the next.

All efforts to improve the curriculum, including the latest effort to revamp the K-12 curriculum at Lindsey's direction, focus on national benchmarks, Chun said.

Teachers, however, were left wondering who's in charge of curriculum after their revamping efforts went largely ignored.

The resulting drop in teacher morale resurfaced at recent National Labor Relations Board hearings, where a teacher testified that faculty input on reworking the curriculum was taken out of their hands. (Teachers won their battle to be represented by a union when the Labor Board ruled in their favor last month; an election will be held on campus March 13.)

Similarly, Lindsey criticized the schools for having no formal method for administrators to evaluate secondary teachers.

Student accuses
Lindsey of intimidation

The ex-student body president
wants the trustees to apologize

By Star-Bulletin staff


Last year's Kamehameha Schools student body president has asked the Bishop Estate's board of trustees for a public apology, saying he was intimidated by trustee Lokelani Lindsey.

In a Jan. 12 letter to board Chairman Richard Wong, Kamani Kuala'au said he broke out in tears after a May 1997 meeting with Lindsey at her downtown office after she questioned his role in supporting Schools President Michael J. Chun.

Kuala'au, now a first-year student at Princeton University, said he was called in by Lindsey after he and fellow student James Moniz drafted a letter to the state Supreme Court about Chun's standing with the trustees.

In his Jan. 12 letter seeking apology from the trustees, Kuala'au debunked rumors that his Kamehameha scholarship had been threatened, but said "our meeting was not a pleasant one."

He added: "I was intimidated when she showed me minutes of teachers' meetings and drafts of letters which she lead me to believe she wasn't supposed to have. Inside, I was terrified because Mrs. Lindsey told me my actions could destroy the entire Kamehameha institution."

"As an educator, trustee Lindsey should have realized before hand what effect her words and actions would have on me, a student," Kuala'au said.

A spokesman for the Bishop Estate could not be reached for comment.

A spokesman for Lindsey declined comment on her behalf. But in the past, Lindsey has said she was misinterpreted, and was simply telling Kuala'au not to jump to conclusions about Chun's situation.

Chun, however, said Kamehameha has used formalized methods to evaluate teachers for some time. The secondary schools' teacher review process was developed in 1990-91, and the preschools and elementary schools revised theirs to conform to that process in 1995.

Until 1995, department heads with backgrounds in subject areas, considered administrators because of their supervisory roles, evaluated secondary-school teachers. Then Lindsey shifted evaluation duties to administrators with general education backgrounds but no expertise in the teachers' subject areas, Chun noted in his report.

His rebuttal includes a 1996 consultant's study commending Kamehameha's pre-1995 teacher evaluation process compared to those of Punahou, Iolani and the state Department of Education.

"In general, the Kamehameha Teacher Review Process appears to be the most comprehensive and the most likely to foster good teaching practices," wrote Heidi Goodrich of the Corporate Psychology Center Inc.

Since Lindsey's removal as education lead trustee, there have been no substantive changes in operations, teachers say -- save one.

Morale on campus is probably higher than it has been in some years, Kukea said. "For teachers to have the guts to stand up for what is right is very powerful for them in terms of their self-respect, commitment to the school and each other. That's good."

In his report to Bishop Estate trustees, Kamehameha Schools President Michael Chun gives point-by-point rebuttals to criticisms leveled by trustee Lokelani Lindsey. Among the key educational issues:


Lindsey: "A summary of SAT results for grades K to 12 based on a spring 1997 Program & Evaluation Planning study shows that Kamehameha student performance declines from grades 1 to 12. The longer students stay at Kamehameha Schools, the more poorly they perform."

Chun: Other studies show otherwise.

The study cited by Lindsey shows how 13 different student groups did in reading and math in April 1997 but not how they progress through the grades. The groups were of students with diverse abilities due to the number of new students admitted at kindergarten, fourth, seventh and ninth grades.

Average percentile ranks in reading and math for students admitted via lottery do drop after the first grade but generally improve as they move up in grade level.

At the secondary school, average percentile ranks are maintained or increased -- particularly in math. However, performance does drop when a different, more difficult version of the test is given.


Lindsey: "A technical study conducted by Charles Giuli, Ph.D, based on five cohorts for 1991-95 show that reading scores on standardized achievement tests declined 26 percent for grades one to five; math scores declined 25 percent for the same group."

Chun: Giuli's study is a draft still undergoing review. While performance by Kamehameha's elementary students do show declines, similar trends can be found at other private schools nationally.

Also, the methodology is misleading and exaggerates the decline. Rather than using "longitudinal scores," which track the same kids moving up grades, average test scores for five groups of first-graders were compared to last year's fourth- and fifth-graders.

After reanalyzing the data, reading scores were found to have dropped 17 percent, not 26 percent. Math scores declined by 17 percent for students in grade five and 32 percent for grade four.

More importantly, however, all classes of competitively admitted students in K-5 last year scored above average compared to national norms.


Lindsey: "Only 48 percent of the Class of 1997 scored at least 510 for verbal and math on the SATs -- the minimum required for admission to the University of Hawaii."

Chun: The statement implies poor performance and ignores the improved scores of graduates since 1981 and the number of seniors taking the College Board SATs.

In 1997, 100 percent of the class took the exam, compared to 84 percent in 1981. Beginning with the Class of 1996, all Kamehameha students are required to take the SAT. More students taking the exam decreases the mean scores.

"We are certainly not content with the successes we have achieved to date and are making further changes in our program that will lead to increases in the numbers of students who do meet the University of Hawaii SAT I criterion."

A March 1997 report from the UH Office of Admissions showed 58 of 100 students who had applied met the SAT guidelines. Of the 42 who did not, 27 were accepted after a "pending" status, nine were still "pending" and six were denied.

Since 1987, average SAT verbal and math scores for Kamehameha seniors have been at or above the national average and well above the Hawaii average.


Lindsey: "Many Kamehameha Schools sixth-graders score lower than DOE and other private school students on the Kamehameha Schools seventh-grade admissions test. In 1995, 38 Kamehameha sixth-graders could not pass the test to continue to the seventh grade."

Chun: Students admitted via the lottery system since it began in 1979 entered with varying abilities, so could not fairly compete with the best and brightest from outside schools applying as seventh-graders to Kamehameha.

Kamehameha Elementary students, however, on average fared better than non-Kamehameha students applying to the seventh grade. On average, one in three and, later, one in two Kamehameha sixth-graders were accepted, compared to one in seven non-Kamehameha students. In 1995 the KSBE trustees decided to admit all Kamehameha sixth-graders.

Scores recently released for the first group of competitively admitted sixth-graders applying to the seventh grade showed average scores in the 86, or "above average," percentile, said Kathleen Kukea, coordinator of curriculum and instruction for the secondary schools. Last year lottery students scored in the 60 percentile.

"Did the program turn around overnight?" said Kukea. "No, it's a different population of kids."


Lindsey: "Kamehameha Schools releases 80 to 100 students each school year -- many who cannot meet academic requirements and are let go rather than given remedial help."

Chun: Students leave Kamehameha for varied reasons and are never summarily dismissed for academic reasons.

Of the 89 who left in the 1995-96 school year, 48 left at their parents' request, 12 of those for academic reasons. Forty-one were released by the school: three for academic problems; 38 for disciplinary problems, mainly violations of the school's zero-tolerance policy on theft and drugs and alcohol.

The school makes "every effort" to assist failing students before releasing them for academic reasons. Steps include remedial courses with smaller class sizes; earlier identification of and help for students having difficulties; requiring study hall during free periods; mandatory tutorial sessions; parent conferences; and assigning teachers or "senior sponsors" to a senior at risk of not graduating.


Lindsey: "More than 30 graduates from the Class of 1997 can barely read, based on results of the 1997 SAT 9."

Chun: Of 442 students, 31 received "below average" reading comprehension scores, but the scores do not accurately depict actual skill. There was no correlation between the scores received on the SAT 9 and their grade point averages or College Board scores. Teachers who helped with the testing noted the students seemed to be "fooling around."

Retesting of juniors and seniors who scored average to below average showed "remarkable improvement" after taking the test more seriously. Only three of 61 retested in reading scored below average, and only one of 23 retested in math scored below average.

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