Isle schools to be rated
for ways to improve

Most state schools don't
meet the national criteria

As early as October, state education officials hope to grade public schools that haven't met federal education standards for four or more years to pinpoint problems and determine what support a school needs to improve.

State of Hawaii The move is part of a push to comply with the No Child Left Behind Act, which calls for every public school student to be proficient in English and math by 2014. Statistics released last week show that almost two-thirds of Hawaii's 280 public schools don't meet the law's criteria.

Sixty-nine Hawaii schools fall within the need for "corrective action" or "planning for restructuring" categories -- the lowest standings under the act.

Under the new policy, outlined yesterday in a state Board of Education committee meeting, only the worst schools will be graded on how they're trying to improve.

Depending upon an evaluation's result, the system will assign specific actions for school administrators.

"We're not walking around with big sticks," state Department of Education Deputy Superintendent Kathy Kawaguchi said. "These are the kinds of changes to enable all of our kids to achieve."

Students could begin seeing changes by the start of the new school semester in January, Kawaguchi said.

The plan would have department members assign one of three grades, or "options," to a school's progress in meeting the federal standards.

An evaluation of "Option One" would mean that a school's administrators understand the problems on their campus. "Option Two" and "Option Three" would signify, respectively, that a school's administration does not understand or has not identified that institution's problems.

The options are based on 11 criteria, including cooperation between a school's administration and its teachers, student and employee morale and the amount of school time dedicated to instruction.

Each option carries a flow chart of remedies.

Schools that fall under Option Two and Three could undergo an audit, while schools under Option One would get support from department specialists or an external evaluator.

"It's going to take a lot of effort from the schools" and the Education Department, said Denise Matsumoto, chairwoman of the Committee of the Whole on Regular Education.

The policy is aimed at helping the state meet its 11 years of progress goals for complying with the federal standards.

By school year 2004-2005, for example, education officials hope to increase the number of schools that have passed the law's math requirements from 10 percent to 28 percent and those that have passed the reading requirements from 30 percent to 44 percent. The department also hopes to increase the state's high school graduation rate from 70 percent to 75 percent.

The policy will go to the full board in October.


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