Friday, July 30, 1999

School guidelines
win rave reviews

The Board of Education gives
Hawaii's new performance
standards an A+

By Crystal Kua


The old ones were criticized as vague, not well-organized, not friendly to the user and too many in number.

But a "refined" version of the Hawaii Content and Performance Standards -- seen as the cornerstone of educational reform in Hawaii -- was met with rave reviews during its first public viewing yesterday at a Board of Education committee meeting.

"This far exceeds my expectations," board Vice Chairwoman Karen Knudsen said yesterday. "This has information here that I want to read."

The old version, with 1,544 standards, was approved in 1994 as Hawaii's entry into the national standards-based education movement.

Standards set learning expectations for students at each grade level and are intended to help raise student achievement.

But Hawaii's standards were far from perfect, receiving low marks from national educational groups. For the most part, schools were reluctant to delve into them.

A report released this year by the 11-member Performance Standards Review Commission outlined some of the problems with the current document, also known as the "blue book":

Bullet The document was not user-friendly. It was vague, confusing, not well-organized and had too many standards.

Bullet Some academic areas such as technology were not represented.

Bullet Parents, students and the community didn't know what standards-based education was all about.

That report convinced the DOE that change was needed.

And change is evident even in the way the revamped standards look. Instead of one large document, the standards are broken into 10 booklets, one each for math, science, language arts, social studies, educational technology, career and life skills, physical education, world languages, fine arts and health.

An additional booklet called "Making Sense of Standards" is a user's guide that explains such issues as what standards are and the classroom use of standards.

"It lays the foundation for use of these documents," said Ron Toma, who heads the Department of Education's school renewal group and who led the refinement effort that included teachers, administrators, state and district specialists and outside experts.

There are now fewer standards, 139. Each standard is then further clarified through grade-level benchmarks.


Here's an excerpt from the refined math content standards for second and third graders:

Bullet CONTENT STANDARD: Students use visualization and spatial reasoning to solve problems both within and outside of mathematics.

Bullet GRADE CLUSTER BENCHMARK: Make simple maps of familiar surroundings (e.g. home, school, journey from home to school).

Here's an excerpt from the refined language arts content standards for grades 9 to 12:

Bullet CONTENT STANDARD: Apply knowledge of verbal and nonverbal language to communicate effectively.

Bullet GRADE CLUSTER BENCHMARK: Use verbal and nonverbal language to create rapport and establish credibility with an audience. Use pronunciation and grammar appropriate to audience, purpose and situation, and to achieve desired results.

Board Chairman Mitsugi Nakashima said the new version is a vast improvement.

"Teachers are not going to say, "I don't know what to do with it,' " Nakashima said.

Education officials also handed out comments made by national experts who reviewed the standards. The experts said the standards are well-organized, solid, clear and consistent with national standards.

Toma said the refined standards have been long awaited by schools, which are eager to get their hands on a copy. "They've been calling us for this."

The documents are intended for use by teachers, but efforts are under way to present the standards in a form that parents and students can understand, Toma said.

What were presented to the board were mainly content standards -- what students should know, be able to do and care about.

Toma said performance standards, which show examples through student work of how the standards can be carried out, are also being worked on.

The department is also developing a test or assessment based on the standards.

In the spring, the department will conduct a pilot project to test students on the language arts and math standards.

A system of accountability is also being devised.

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