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School makes progress on proficiency tests


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POSTED: Monday, December 15, 2008

Each year students in grades 3-8 and 10 take a statewide test called the Hawaii State Assessment. HSA is a benchmark test that focuses on reading, math, writing, and science proficiency, and it compels students to strive to meet the Hawaii Content and Performance Standards (HCPS III) set by the Department of Education.

How well students do on the HSA is important, especially in the targeted areas of reading and math, because the school must achieve a proficiency objective of at least 58 percent in reading and 46 percent in math to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). AYP and HSA are the state's implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

Over the next six years the proficiency objectives will increase steadily until 2014, when all proficiency objectives will increase to 100 percent. This means that in order for a school to make AYP they must have 100 percent of their students pass the HSA, including students that speak English as a second language and Special Education students. A school that does not make AYP will face sanctions and may be put under reconstruction. Under NCLB there are several status levels, ranging from restructuring (AYP is not met for six consecutive years) to good standing-unconditional (AYP was met for at least two consecutive years).

The percentage of schools to make AYP has decreased from last year and it is believed that increased proficiency objectives are to blame. Waialua High and Intermediate Principal Randiann Porras-Tang says, "NCLB forces the school to improve instruction for all students; however at some point the benchmarks the school needs to meet become somewhat unrealistic."

Progress is being made, but not fast enough for NCLB. Superintendent of Education Patricia Hamamoto says, "The progress made by our schools clearly indicates deep learning, especially with a substantial increase in math and reading proficiency targets this year."

Waialua High and Intermediate School is in reconstruction at the moment, but the school will not be in it for long by the looks of the students' recent HSA scores. WHIS exceeded the proficiency objective of 58 percent for reading with a 66 percent score, and while it did not meet the math proficiency of 46 percent, it is in a "safe harbor" with a proficiency of 36 percent. Being in a safe harbor means that WHIS may not have met the proficiency objectives for all areas, it made enough progress to achieve AYP. A school must make it to at least a safe harbor two years in a row in order to move out of restructuring status and be in good standing.

WHIS is one of only seven public high schools in the state of Hawaii that met AYP this past school year. WHIS, along with Haleiwa Elementary and Waialua Elementary, is part of a complex for the communities of Waialua, Haleiwa, Pupukea, Kawailoa and Mokuleia. The Waialua Complex is one of only three in the entire state to have met AYP. However, Principal Porras-Tang reminds everyone that HSA and AYP are not everything, saying, "As a school community, whether we make AYP or not, what we look for is growth over time." Growth is something that is definitely evident at WHIS. In fact, test scores have increased so consistently in the past few years that the DOE gave it the Continuous Improvement Award.

After viewing the recent test scores, Curriculum Coordinator Lorri Sonan remarked, "I am so proud of all the students and teachers and the work they've done to show everyone in the state that Waialua is a great school."

Principal Porras-Tang adds, "We need to celebrate our accomplishments (on the HSA). It took a village to raise these children. Students, teachers, and staff were persistent, diligent, and focused in their work. Parents supported students in their efforts. Last year's AYP is the result of many years of hard work by all. Kudos to everyone! Yeah baby!"