Varying factors nullify
state public schools’
lowest ranking


A national report shows Hawaii with the highest percentage of schools marked for takeover and restructuring.

A STUDY comparing how states are performing under the federal law aimed at improving public school education places Hawaii at the bottom. As with most broad rankings, disparate factors may present a misleading, if not unfair, picture of accomplishments and failings.

A report by the Education Commission of the States marks Hawaii as having the highest nationwide percentage of schools -- 8.5 percent -- in restructuring status, a condition that precedes shutting down a facility absent improvement.

Though that percentage far exceeds the next state on the list -- Georgia, with 2.6 percent -- the numbers can be deceptive.

A closer look, as reported by the Star-Bulletin's Dan Martin, reveals that the Peach State has 51 schools in restructuring as opposed to 24 in Hawaii. Other conditions also can twist the study's rankings, gauged by yearly progress goals required by the No Child Left Behind law.

The commission itself pointed out that comparing states is tricky because each applies the law differently. ECS's consulting researcher, Todd Ziebart, noted that some states originally set lower proficiency levels than others or have dropped them, while several have developed easier tests or have lagged in enforcing the law's penalties.

"There is definitely a difference in standards across the country," Ziebart said.

Although it is near-impossible to compare Hawaii's with others, the state Department of Education decided early on that tests should be rigorous. In fact, some educators have complained that the exams, especially the math tests, are too demanding.

ECS also noted that Hawaii began applying NCLB sanctions relatively early and is among just 14 states that have reached the restructuring mode. Among the stragglers are Mississippi and Arkansas, states that routinely rank low in academic achievement.

As to why the commission compiles data for such apples-and-oranges comparisons when they appear to serve little purpose, ECS's function is to apprise policymakers about states' education programs. Given the objective and the varying components, the rankings should be taken with a grain of salt by policymakers as well as Hawaii's parents and educators.

That said, information in the report should be examined with an eye for courses and approaches that have helped school systems reach their marks, particularly because a number of public schools here are underperforming and are on the cusp of having operations taken over.

Though parents and school officials should not be discouraged by national ratings, they should constantly be searching for ways to provide Hawaii's students with a better education.

Oahu Publications, Inc. publishes
the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, MidWeek
and military newspapers


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