Most Hawaii kids
are not proficient
on state test

Overall, those in lower grades did
better than high school students

By Susan Essoyan

Most Hawaii public school students stumbled on their first try at the new Hawaii State Assessment, but largely held their own against their mainland counterparts on the traditional Stanford Achievement Test, according to newly released scores.

Students in the lower grades tended to do better overall than high school students on both tests, given last April. Elementary school students exceeded the national average on the SAT in both reading and math, while eighth-graders did better in reading but worse in math. Sophomores fell short of national norms in both, with just 7 percent outscoring the national average in reading.

School-by-school results were presented publicly at the Board of Education's meeting yesterday. Education officials are most focused on the results of the Hawaii State Assessment, given for the first time in April, which showed just a fifth of students statewide proficient in math and two-fifths proficient in reading.

Complete SAT Score Listings

Grade 3 | Grade 5
Grade 8 | Grade 10

Grade 3 | Grade 5
Grade 8 | Grade 10

"We have to do better," said Department of Education spokesman Greg Knudsen. "This is the base line from which we'll build."

Scores varied widely from school to school, with those in higher-income neighborhoods outperforming those in poorer areas. On the Hawaii State Assessment, for example, 34 percent of sophomores at Kaiser High scored as proficient in math, with 10 percent falling well below proficiency; at Nanakuli High, 2 percent were proficient, with 27 percent well below.

Scores on the Hawaii test are ranked as "well below," "approach," "meet" or "exceed" proficiency. On the SAT, scores are ranked as "below average," "average" and "above average."

The national SAT norm is standardized at 23 percent below average, 54 percent average and 23 percent above.

The Hawaii Content and Performance Standards State Assessment, as it is formally known, will be the base line for measuring compliance with the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The law requires steady progress in performance, with all students expected to be proficient by the 2013-2014 school year.

"It does represent a challenge, and some schools have more progress required," Knudsen said. "What really is important is an individual student's scores, and parents should be familiar with their own child's needs and, if necessary, seek some assistance."

The SAT has long been used as a measure of student performance in relation to national standards. It relies on multiple-choice questions.

The Hawaii State Assessment is a broader and more rigorous test designed to measure how students are doing in relation to Hawaii's new standards for learning. Along with multiple-choice questions, it requires students to come up with their own solutions to problems, explain their work, construct graphs, read and analyze texts, and write their own passages.

"Besides computing, they have to write their rationale and how they arrived at their answer, and that counted for more points than the computation," Board of Education member Shannon Ajifu said. "The kids frequently could do their computation, but they couldn't give the reason for their answer.

"I took the third-grade one, and I couldn't do all of it," she added with a laugh.

The percentages of students rated proficient on the Hawaii State Assessment by grade were:

>> Grade 3: 20 percent in math, 42 percent in reading.

>> Grade 5: 22 percent in math, 43 percent in reading.

>> Grade 8: 20 percent in math, 42 percent in reading.

>> Grade 10: 17 percent in math, 37 percent in reading.

The Board of Education has said it set high standards for proficiency on the test in hopes of spurring improvement.

Although observers tend to zero in on test scores as a measure of a school's success, some say that can be misleading.

"Test scores are not just a measure of achievement; they reflect things the school has no control over," said Rep. K. Mark Takai (D, Newtown-Pearl City), pointing to factors like poverty, parents' level of education and the percentage of students in special education.

"It's unfair for people to make judgments of schools based on test scores," Takai said. "It's fairer to make judgments on schools based on improvements made year to year. A school (that falls short in scores) may in fact be doing quite well based on the demographics of students and improvements over time."

Under No Child Left Behind, however, each school will be expected to meet the same benchmarks over the next several years, regardless of its starting point. Students whose schools consistently fail to meet goals may transfer to better-performing schools or receive tutoring. If problems persist, schools may be required to change staff or even lose federal funding.


Test examples

Here are some sample questions from the Hawaii Content and Performance Standards Assessment.

Grade 10 math

LuAnn looked in the classified section of her local newspaper and found the prices of nine used cars that were the make and model she wanted to buy. She recorded the following information: The median price was $3,875; the mode was $4,295; and the range was $2,000.

Using that information, make a list of prices for the nine cars that could be the ones LuAnn found in the newspaper. Explain how you used the information in the table to make your list.

Grade 8 math

The first four terms in a pattern of numbers are shown below.

2, 4, 7, 11, _, _, _, _

Write the next four numbers in the pattern. Explain the mathematical rule you used to continue the pattern.

Grade 5 writing

Imagine that for one day you can trade places with someone you would like to be. This person, real or imaginary, can be from the past, present or future. Tell who that person is and why you would like to trade places with him or her. Write about what you would do as that person for one day and how you would feel about it.

Grade 3 reading

When Becky opened her present, she found a beautiful pink nightgown. The two words that make up the word "nightgown" help you understand that a nightgown is a:

A. small light that is left on when it is dark.

B. piece of clothing that is worn while sleeping.

C. fancy dress that is dark in color.

D. bird that hunts for food after the sun goes down.


Grade 10 math: There are multiple right answers to this question. Students must know that the median is the middle number in the series, and the mode is the value that occurs most frequently in the series. They must then create a list of prices that fall within a range of $2,000, with $3,875 in the middle and $4,295 occurring at least twice.

Grade 8 math: 16, 22, 29, 37. Each number increases by the difference between the previous two, plus one.

Grade 5 writing: Score depends on the quality of the response.

Grade 3 reading: B

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