Test results point way
toward improvement


Just 94 of 282 public schools made adequate progress in 2005

THAT only a third of Hawaii's public schools cleared the bar in state tests for academic progress might be disturbing to those who see the measure as a mark of failure rather than a way by which improvement can be achieved.

Results of annual tests tied to requirements of federal law certainly provide fodder for public school critics, but that's not the point.

The tests help educators more clearly identify problems at individual schools so that they can be resolved, show which methods are working and which aren't, and who needs more help and why. They are the means to an end, not the end itself.

At first glance the results present a gloomy picture. Just 94 of 282 schools made adequate progress, and 20 more schools, due to repeated poor performances, could be added to the list of 24 already undergoing intensive reform or restructuring.

However, parents and others in the community should keep in mind that schools are still in the early stages of a long course for improvement and that as students and modifications advance, academic proficiency should follow.

There are promising signs even as benchmarks are being raised. Jarrett Middle and Kealakehe, Hauula and Kahaluu elementary schools -- four campuses now under reform programs -- made adequate progress. In addition, younger students, who through all their school years have been studying under tighter standards and testing, more often reach or exceed achievement levels. Even schools where poverty and inadequate language skills should set children back are making strides.

Successes notwithstanding, much remains to be done. Schools on the neighbor islands, particularly on Lanai, Molokai and Hawaii, are falling behind. A good number are in restructuring or on the verge of slumping to that level.

Through many lean years, public schools, like other state agencies, have had to cut spending, and though legislators and the administration attempted to soften the blows on education, decreases were made on top of already inadequate funding.

Now that the state is enjoying a $486 million surplus with projections of more than $470 million next fiscal year, Hawaii's leaders -- who steadfastly proclaim education as their priority -- should invest some of that money in public schools.

Teacher salaries, which have been raised but still lag by national standards, could be boosted to attract the best Hawaii can afford. Old textbooks could be replaced and more bought so that each child has one. Substandard school buildings could be repaired and needed air conditioning installed. New schools could be built where needed.

Money issues aside, teachers, the Department of Education and parents should not lose hope. Though public education will be a constant challenge as long as the federal government's unrealistic goal of 100 percent proficiency remains in place, there's no reason not to reach high.

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


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