Schools cheer
test progress

Fewer made adequate progress
under rising federal benchmarks,
but the trend is clearly up

Only one-third of Hawaii public schools made adequate academic progress on state tests this year, but clear upward trends at even some of the most challenged schools provided state school officials with a silver lining to trumpet.

"Can I get up on this table and dance now?" schools Superintendent Pat Hamamoto said to members of the Board of Education upon releasing the results yesterday.

Just 94 of the state's 282 regular and charter schools made the grade, the lowest number since the test results began serving as school-by-school "report cards" in 2003.

But schools faced a sharply higher bar this year, and though fewer of them made it over, many showed sharp gains in the numbers of students who tested well in reading and math.

Forty-four percent of students were required to test proficient on the Hawaii State Assessment in reading, and 28 percent in math, for schools to achieve Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), the equivalent of a passing grade. Grades 3, 5, 8 and 10 were tested.

Those benchmarks are up from 30 percent and 10 percent, respectively, last year.

The department noted that if the old standards had remained in place, nearly 70 percent of state schools would have made AYP this year, which would have been the best showing yet.

"The bottom line is that we are steadily and consistently moving our students up in proficiency," Hamamoto said.


This year's one-third success rate is down from 52 percent last year and 39 percent the year before. Three schools are still awaiting their results.

Of the schools that fell short, 20 more will fall into "restructuring" status, the highest penalty under the federal No Child Left Behind law, which levies escalating sanctions on schools that repeatedly miss the state-set proficiency targets.

There are already 24 schools undergoing restructuring, a state-directed school reform process.

At 20 of those schools, the state brought in private firms from the mainland to help redo everything from curriculum and teacher training to a school's daily bell schedule.

But Hamamoto said the Department of Education plans to move away from that approach.

The department, which is paying those firms $7.9 million under two-year contracts, plans to analyze the 20 new schools and offer more efficient, "targeted" help on its own, where possible.

"We have a greater understanding of the process and how to analyze the data now. Last year, we were just learning how to do this," Hamamoto said.

The department has 90 days to determine the restructuring plans for the 20 schools.

Under No Child Left Behind's strict criteria, individual categories of students must meet the same state-determined proficiency and test-participation requirements as the whole school. These include various ethnic groups, the economically disadvantaged, English-learners and others.

Education department data showed that in more than half of the schools, the overall student population achieved proficiency targets, but schools missed AYP because one or more student categories fell short.

Four of the original 24 restructuring schools were among the big surprises yesterday. Hauula, Kahaluu and Kealakehe elementary and Jarrett Middle School all made AYP.

"We're really excited. It's a wonderful feeling," said Jarrett Principal Gerald Teramae. "This validates all the hard work of the teachers and students over the past year."

Jarrett made leaps in proficiency for both math and reading. Though it missed the 28 percent mark in math, it earned AYP under a rule that rewards large improvements.

As part of its restructuring, Jarrett is now working with mainland firm Edison Schools on a school improvement plan.

But if it achieves AYP again in next spring's tests, Jarrett's No Child Left Behind record will be wiped clean, and it will not face the possibility of restructuring again for at least several years.

"I told (staff) today that 'you did a great job last year on your own, and now we have Edison helping us this year, so we have no excuse for not making AYP again,'" Teramae said.

The number of schools in "good standing," or totally free of sanctions, actually improved slightly this year, to 145 from 142 schools last year.

Among them were Jefferson, Kaumana, Leihoku and Pahoa elementary. All four would have had to submit to restructuring if they failed this year, but now all are in good standing, thanks to two straight years of AYP.

Leihoku principal Randall Miura said one reason for the school's improved showing is that its third-graders were the first testing class to have spent their entire elementary education in the No Child Left Behind era, with its tighter focus on educational standards and testing.

"That's contributed greatly," he said.

Leihoku was one of four Waianae schools that made the grade, prompting effusive congratulations from Board of Education members.

But not everyone was celebrating yesterday.

Kalihi-Kai Elementary was "cautiously optimistic" that it would meet AYP for the second straight year and be clear of restructuring, said Principal Stanley Kayatani. Instead, it fell short and is waiting to hear from the state on its restructuring plan.

"We felt that if we had been given more time, we could have hit the 44 and 28 percent," Kayatani said.

Proficiency levels of many schools, however, remain far below where they need to be, especially since the benchmarks rise in stair-step fashion to 2014, when 100 percent of students must be proficient under No Child Left Behind.

Assistant Superintendent Kathy Kawaguchi said the DOE will soon unveil plans for increased professional development and support for schools before they get too deep into sanctions.

But Rep. Roy Takumi (D, Pearl City-Pacific Palisades) said the state and schools should not "obsess" about AYP.

Takumi, who chairs the House Education Committee, called No Child Left Behind a "one-size-fits-all, top-down, cookie-cutter" policy that ignores the fact that the Hawaii State Assessment has been rated as far more rigorous than tests in other states.

"There is a danger in obsessing too much about AYP because if schools don't make it, it basically labels them as failures," he said, adding that he expects the law to be changed before the lofty 100 percent proficiency targets kick in.


More school restructuring possible

The Department of Education said yesterday the following 20 schools could face state-directed restructuring for repeatedly falling short of required achievement benchmarks on state tests. They join 24 previously identified schools for whom the restructuring process has already begun.

» Benjamin Parker Elementary
» Haleiwa Elementary
» Kaala Elementary
» Kalanianaole Elementary & Intermediate
» Kalihi-Kai Elementary
» Kamaile Elementary
» Kau High and Pahala Elementary
» Kaunakakai Elementary
» Kealakehe Intermediate
» Keaukaha Elementary
» Kilohana Elementary
» Kualapuu Elementary
» Laupahoehoe High & Elementary
» Maili Elementary
» Makaha Elementary
» Nanakuli Elementary
» Puohala Elementary
» Wahiawa Elementary
» Waimanalo Elementary & Intermediate
» Waipahu Elementary

What is AYP?

Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP, is the key measure of whether individual schools meet the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind law. It is based on student performance on the Hawaii State Assessment administered each spring.

How is AYP achieved?

This year, 44 percent of students were required to show proficiency in reading, and 28 percent in math. Those percentages apply not only to the school as a whole, but also to specific categories of students ranging from individual ethnic groups to the economically disadvantaged, the disabled and those still learning English.

In all, there are up to 37 different criteria that must be met. Schools that miss the benchmarks can still achieve AYP if they show sufficient growth in proficiency levels.

What if schools do not make AYP?

Schools that miss the mark year after year face a series of escalating consequences. These include measures aimed at encouraging school improvement, giving students the option of transferring to better-performing schools, and providing free tutoring for some students. If AYP is missed for six straight years, a school must submit to a state-directed reform process or convert to a charter school.

State Department of Education
School AYP preliminary status

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