Island schools’ ‘climate’
rated C-

By Susan Essoyan

Hawaii's public school "climate," a broad measure of conditions from safety to class size, improved from an F to a C- in a national report card issued today by Education Week, while its other grades remained largely unchanged.

The state got an A for fairly distributing resources among its schools, a B- for the adequacy of those resources, and a C- for its efforts to improve teacher quality, the same marks it received last year from the national education newspaper.

Hawaii's grade for "standards and accountability" was a D+, up slightly from last year's D-. The state fell short on holding schools and students accountable for performance, more than for its new standards, the data showed.

"We're looking for more improvement in that area," said Greg Knudsen, spokesman for the Department of Education. The study might have overlooked the fact that the state administered the first Hawaii Content and Performance Standards test last spring, he said. Test results are expected later this month.

Education Week's "Quality Counts 2003" report compares the 50 states and the District of Columbia on various indicators of school quality.

This year's report focused on teachers, saying that all the states have a long way to go in guaranteeing a "highly qualified" teacher for every classroom by the 2005-2006 school year, as mandated by federal law.

In Hawaii, 22 percent of high school students had at least one teacher not certified in the subject area, compared to 17 percent nationally. But students in high-poverty schools were better off in Hawaii than their counterparts elsewhere, with just 19 percent having at least one teacher not certified in the subject, compared to 26 percent nationally.

"We know we can do better for Hawaii's children," said Karen Ginoza, president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association.

"We must improve teacher quality, and many of the incentives we have been fighting for have been cited in the report."

She noted that equity is one of the strengths of Hawaii's single district system. Although the system has been criticized for being top-heavy, the study showed the opposite. Hawaii had one of the largest ratios of teachers as a percentage of total staff, at nearly 60 percent, second only to Rhode Island.

"School climate" includes such things as school safety, parental involvement, school choice, class size, school size and school facilities. Last year's report card did not measure school climate, but in the previous four years, Hawaii had scored an F in that category.

One factor pulling down Hawaii's grade is its large schools. The state was second only to Florida in the percentage of students in high schools with more than 900 students, with 92 percent. The national average was 70 percent.

More of Hawaii's high schools, however, offered advanced placement courses than the national average, 88 percent compared to 65 percent.

Hawaii spent $6,794 on education per student in 2002, compared to a national average of $7,524, according to the report, which adjusted for regional cost differences.

On the Web:

State Department of Education

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