State of Hawaii

Isle schools miss targets

In the first year that all schools
were monitored, about two-thirds
did not meet academic criteria
set out under the federal
No Child Left Behind Act

Nearly two-thirds of Hawaii's public schools failed to make adequate academic progress over the past year under strict new federal criteria designed to ensure that "no child is left behind."

This is the first time that all schools were monitored, not just high-poverty schools, and that students with different backgrounds, including those with limited English, were expected to reach the same proficiency levels. Schools had to meet 37 benchmarks to pass.

"We congratulate the schools that met the very challenging standards, and we will focus on those that need greater assistance to raise student performance," said Superintendent Patricia Hamamoto, who released the preliminary results yesterday.

The No Child Left Behind Act calls for every student to become proficient in English and math by 2014, and states have set annual targets for progress toward that goal. Test results for each school are broken down into five ethnic groups, as well as students with limited English, the economically disadvantaged and the disabled. If any group falls short of the target, the entire school is rated as not making "adequate yearly progress."

Also, 95 percent of students in each group must be tested. Waialua Elementary School, for example, met the academic targets, but just 93 percent of its students were tested, so it did not make "adequate progress" this year. Graduation rates and retention rates must also meet targets.

"I don't think 'adequate yearly progress' is accurately named," said Michael Heim, director of planning and evaluation for the public schools. "At least for Hawaii -- and I think this probably true for most other states -- I think you are truly looking at extraordinary yearly progress."

Results reported so far this fall vary widely from state to state. In Florida, for example, 88 percent of schools failed to make "adequate yearly progress." In California and Virginia, 45 percent of public schools missed the goal. In Minnesota just 8 percent fell short.

Each state uses its own test and sets the academic targets for each year. There has been concern that states with relatively easy tests will appear to have successful schools while those with more demanding ones will have high failure rates.

Hawaii students are being measured on their performance on the Hawaii State Assessment, a rigorous test that requires students to come up with their own solutions to problems -- not just select among choices -- explain their reasoning and write passages. This year's benchmarks for Hawaii students were 30 percent proficient in reading and 10 percent proficient in math.

"What concerns me is that so many schools are not meeting this first level of our goal, which is the lowest level," said Board of Education member Laura Thielen. "That signals to me that we're going to have really serious problems in the upcoming years, because it's only going to get higher."

Of 280 schools across the state, 95 made "adequate progress," and five were exempt as new schools or data were not available. Of the 180 Hawaii schools that failed to make "adequate progress," 116 did so for the first time and thus are still considered in "good standing," according to Department of Education spokesman Greg Knudsen. They are given a year's grace period to improve.

A series of consequences kicks in each year that schools continue to miss the mark. Hawaii's high-poverty schools have already been dealing with such consequences as a condition of receiving federal Title I money.

If a school misses the mark two years in a row, students are given the option of transferring elsewhere. So far, few have chosen to do so. More have taken advantage of tutoring services, offered to low-income students in schools that miss "adequate yearly progress" three years in a row.

In the fourth year, schools are required to take "corrective action," which requires that staff and/or curriculum changes be made, along with the transfer and tutoring options. In the fifth year, schools must plan for "restructuring," which could include replacing all or most staff, assigning the operation of the school to the state or a private organization, or conversion to charter status.

This year, 23 schools are in "corrective action," and 46 schools are moving into the "planning for restructuring" phase -- the first time any school has reached that stage. Just what that will mean is not clear, since Hawaii's schools are already state-run.

"Those under 'planning for restructuring' will receive concentrated help and directed actions to reverse records that are not acceptable," Hamamoto said. "We are committed to elevating all students and all schools to high levels of performance."

Blanche Pope Elementary School in Waimanalo, a high-poverty school that must plan for restructuring this year, adopted a research-based curriculum known as "Success for All" several years ago in hopes of boosting student performance. It has also offered after-school tutorial programs, as well as academic programs during school breaks.

"It's challenging," said Principal Rodney Moriwake. "Our staff is working very hard to try to do what we can in order to meet the federal guidelines. The district is working with us closely. We're not in this alone."

U.S. Rep. Ed Case (D-Rural Oahu, Neighbor Islands) said the federal government needs to provide the funding that was promised when the No Child Left Behind law was passed if it expects to raise student performance across the board.

"It is very hard for me to fault Hawaii or any other state that is not at the level of performance anticipated, because they haven't been provided the resources that everybody knows are needed," he said.

Complete results for each school, including the breakdown in proficiency levels for different groups of students, are available at the Department of Education's Web site at


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