[ OUR OPINION ]
is worth the effort
AN INITIAL report of academic progress points out the formidable task Hawaii's public school system faces in meeting federal standards for education under the No Child Left Behind Act. Nonetheless, the data that shows that more than two-thirds of schools failed to make adequate improvements should not discourage education officials and parents, but rather should spur all involved to work harder.
Two-thirds of Hawaii's public schools fail to meet standards of the No Child Left Behind Act.
In addition, the report does not take into account factors that affect a school's standing. A close look at the report indicates that a minor component can place a school into a failing category. Such was the case at Waialua Elementary, which met academic goals, but because just 93 percent of students were tested when 95 percent was the standard, the school was judged as not making adequate progress.
Moreover, the state Department of Education has chosen assessment exams that are more rigorous than those in other states, requiring students to come up with their own solutions to problems, instead of just choosing one of several given answers, and to explain their solutions in writing.
Meanwhile, Hawaii's large immigrant, non-English-speaking and transient military population present challenges not recognized by the federal government as mitigating factors.
However, none of these negate the hard realities of the assessments; that public schools will need big improvements if the state is to meet federal requirements.
To that end, the DOE appears to have set in place corrective measures and programs, but because schools have different problems on varied levels, education officials should tailor changes and restructuring individually.
Parents concerned about their children's school should first take a careful look at the assessment details to determine the nature and the depth of problems. Schools deemed as failing may have had inconsequential problems, like Waialua's. They should seek help in the various options available, such as transfers to schools in good standing or tutoring services.
In order to make improvements, the DOE may have to impose drastic changes and overhauls at the 23 schools rated in need of corrective action -- schools that have missed adequate progress for four years -- and at the 42 schools that have not made progress for five years and are planned for restructuring. Teachers and education staff members should not resist; progress can only be achieved through collaboration.
Although the outlook for public schools looks bleak, parents and educators should not be dissuaded from aspiring to the goal of the law, despite the lack of promised funding and resources from the federal government. Improvements in the schools mean children will be better educated and that objective is worth all the testing, restructuring and curriculum changes that may be necessary.
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Justice’s power to
spy should be revoked
ATTORNEY General John Ashcroft has launched a defense of a post-Sept. 11 law that allows the government to monitor an individual's records at bookstores and libraries as part of the war on terrorism. His odd defense is that the power has not been used even once. Then Ashcroft should not mind if Congress were to repeal the snooping authority.
The Justice Department announced that it has not used its counterterrorism powers to demand records from libraries and bookstores.
The City Council and Hawaii Legislature are among more than 150 cities and states that have passed resolutions condemning the powers created by the USA Patriot Act. The American Library Association has been in the forefront of opposition to the law, which invades library patrons' privacy rights.
Ashcroft said in a speech to police and prosecutors in Memphis that the Justice Department "has neither the staffing, the time nor the inclination to monitor the reading habits of Americans. No offense to the American Library Association, but we just don't care ... The charges of the hysterics are revealed for what they are: castles in the air built on misrepresentation, supported by unfounded fear, held aloft by hysteria."
Those castles were erected by Ashcroft, who asked Congress for the authority to monitor people's reading habits. A Justice Department official testified earlier this year that the FBI has sought records from about 50 libraries, but mostly, if not entirely, as part of criminal investigations unrelated to terrorism. Until only a few days ago, Ashcroft had refused to divulge information about use of the authority in the war against terrorism. That refusal itself may have had a chilling effect on people's liberties.
The Patriot Act gives the government the power to seek an order from a secret court to demand library records, business documents, medical files and a variety of other records for investigations aimed a protecting national security. The government should be stripped of that power regardless of whether it has had the staffing, time or inclination to use it.