Wednesday, March 24, 1999

new subject:

Superintendent Paul LeMahieu
is designing a system aimed
at raising student achievement

Crystal Kua


Schools could be closed down. Schools could get more money. Heads could roll. Teachers and administrators could be recognized. Students could get the boot. Student learning could improve.

These are just some of the ways Hawaii's public school system could be held accountable when students reach or fall short of academic expectations.

"I'm excited because we have the opportunity to build something that can measure up," state Superintendent Paul LeMahieu told a gathering at Moanalua High School last night.

LeMahieu was one of three experts who spoke at a forum on school accountability sponsored by the Education Commission of the States with the Department of Education.

LeMahieu said accountability is just one piece of an overall puzzle, which includes assessment and standards, aimed at raising student achievement.

LeMahieu is in the process of refining the Hawaii Content and Performance Standards, a document of what students should know and be able to do, which has come under criticism as being vague and hard to work with.

Designing a testing and accountability system linked to the standards will be done simultaneously, he said. Initial work is expected to be completed in May.

Those who attended the forum also shared ideas on what they think Hawaii's accountability system should look like.

LeMahieu said accountability shouldn't be solely punitive but should include rewards and assistance to those who need it. "Make it challenging, make it demanding, and make it possible for us all to succeed."

Kay McClenney, commission vice president, who spoke about the lessons on accountability learned by other states, said Hawaii's single statewide school system provides for both advantages and challenges when it comes to accountability.

"The unified system in Hawaii makes some things possible that are at least more complicated, say, in a place like Texas where you have a huge array of independent school districts without a unifying force," she said.

But this single school system should be ready to relinquish some of its decision-making to schools, she said, "because judgments about what is going to work best as an intervention to increase the performance of a given school cannot be made easily from afar."

Paul Hill, director of the Program on Reinventing Public Education, said the goal of accountability is better schools. Giving schools the flexibility, autonomy and freedom from rules to effect change is important.

"People will have to do certain jobs, have the resources to do those jobs and have that freedom to do them," he said.

But he said clear lines of responsibility also need to be made, and everyone needs to know the consequences, even if the consequences -- such as shutting down a school -- are rarely invoked.

"Does this have to happen? I'm not sure it does, but it has to be talked about," he said.

He also said parents and students also need to be held responsible for certain things like making sure the child goes to school every day.

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
[Stylebook] [Feedback]

© 1999 Honolulu Star-Bulletin