Friday, January 8, 1999


A report urges that parents
be informed about a list seen
as key to improving learning

By Crystal Kua


HILO -- While the Hawaii Content and Performance Standards is seen by educators as the key tool to improving student learning, many parents and students don't know what it is.

"They have not a clue," said Susan St. Aubin, president of the Hawaii State Parent Teacher Student Association and a member of a commission that studied the standards last year.

"My sense is that there is absolutely no question that they would want to know where their child should be and what their child should know," St. Aubin told the school board last night. "But they have not been involved in the process."

The 11-member Performance Standards Review Commission last night presented its final report to the Board of Education, which voted unanimously to accept the report.

The Hawaii Content and Performance Standards, also called the "Blue Book," contains 1,544 standards that specify what students should know, be able to do and care about.

These standards cover language arts, mathematics, science, health and fitness, fine arts, world languages and home and work skills.

Among the findings of the commission was that more parents and others need to be educated about the content and performance standards and what they mean to education.

"If they were aware of exactly what it was that their students were supposed to be knowing or being able to do, they can help. They'll work with the students at home and promote that kind of learning," commission vice chairman Ormond Hammond said.

St. Aubin said that the reason parents have not been informed is because schools have busy implementing the standards and haven't had the time or resources to let parents know.

"Parents and the community as a whole haven't been involved with the process," Hammond said. "Parents will go, 'Standards? What's that?'"

But when they are told, most are supportive of the idea, he said.

"People are ready for standards. They want the comfort of knowing there's consistency across the board," Hammond said.

The commission's report listed other findings and came up with recommendations:

Bullet Teachers did not find the Blue Book to be user-friendly, and they said it needs to be refined. There were too many standards, redundancy, vagueness and confusion.

Bullet Some academic areas are not represented, such as vocational education, safety and technology.

Bullet There is no system-wide implementation plan for the standards.

Bullet Standards must become the single focus of the system.

Bullet A statewide assessment, which would determine how well students are achieving standards at both the classroom and system level, is lacking and needs to be developed.

Bullet Securing money, personnel, training and materials will help to successfully implement the standards.

Bullet Establish clear content and performance standards.

State Schools Superintendent Paul LeMahieu said that as part of the information process, he would like separate "blue books" to be written for parents, teachers and students. "We need more than one document. We need different kinds of things for different kinds of audiences."

The task now falls to LeMahieu to gear his department toward devising a strategic plan to implement the standards statewide.

"The standards are the basic work of the system," LeMahieu said. "You can bet your bottom dollar that what resources we have will be dedicated to the strategic implementation plan."

But that may be a daunting task.

The governor's budget has already cut $5 million the DOE was hoping to use to implement the standards and a related assessment and accountability system.

LeMahieu is scheduled to appear before lawmakers next week to make his budget pitch to restore the money the governor cut out of his budget. LeMahieu said he plans to illustrate clearly where education money goes and what he plans to do.

He said the commission's report, along with yesterday's Education Week report, will help to show that a standards-based system is the best way to improve education and Hawaii is ready to get on with the work.

LeMahieu said that any amount of money he receives will help but the more he gets, the better Hawaii's standards-based education will become.

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