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NCLB Outrages

In Hawaii, 64% of Schools Fail NCLB

Ohanian Comment: The state's possible responses to NCLB results seem to stop short of burning down the schools--but barely. Three cheers for board chair Herbert Watanabe, who notes, "When you're looking at figures like this, the feds gotta have their heads examined sometimes."

In Hawai'i's first statewide assessment of schools under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, 180 of 280 public schools failed to meet academic standards.

At 46 schools, the state is considering "major changes" that could include replacement of all or most of the staff, conversion to a charter school or assigning school operations to a state or private organization, according to a Department of Education report released yesterday at a Board of Education meeting on the Big Island.

Parents can ask that students at 88 of the 180 failing schools be transferred next school year.

Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP, reports reveal a gulf between student performance and expectations set by the state. The results are an indication of the difficulty of meeting federal requirements.

Under the measures, 180 schools did not meet their goals on standardized tests last spring, 95 schools did and five were exempt either because they are new schools or did not have data available.

The AYP reports represent one of the first broad applications of the No Child Left Behind Act, a federal law that requires continual improvement of reading and math test scores.

Previously, only high-poverty schools that receive additional money from the federal government have had to calculate Adequate Yearly Progress. Now, all public schools are subject to the same standards.

It is also the first year schools have been classified as "planning for restructuring," a category that means they have lagged in the AYP assessment for five years. Forty-six schools now have that designation.

Elaine Takenaka, director of administrative services for the DOE Office of Curriculum, Instruction and Student Support, told BOE members that the DOE has set aside millions of dollars to overhaul schools but it is not clear how the department will proceed at each campus.

"That's what we're addressing right now, to make sure we do it as humanely as possible and provide tremendous support for the schools rather than coming and hitting them over the head," said Kathy Kawaguchi, assistant superintendent for the Office of Curriculum, Instruction and Student Support.

External auditors will be hired to assess many of the schools targeted for restructuring, and "state intervention teams" made up of staff from the schools, outside experts or community members will be assigned the job of drafting improvement plans. Those plans could range from changes in curriculum to conversion to a charter school.

State Schools Superintendent Pat Hamamoto said not all the failing schools will be targeted for major changes, because some may have narrowly missed their testing targets. That is why the department is being "cautious" about saying specifically what will happen at the struggling schools.

"We need to go in and take a look because maybe it was participation (that caused the problem) and not the academic, or we may have missed it by one point, which doesn't mean you go in and uproot the whole school," she said. "It's really an individual analysis of each school."

The report drew an irate response from board chairman Herbert Watanabe, who cited an analysis of Hawai'i public school students that found 51 percent are "at risk" because they come from economically disadvantaged families, have limited English proficiency or are special-education students.

"This is what we have ... don't blame everything on the public schools," he said. "Read the facts. When you're looking at figures like this, the feds gotta have their heads examined sometimes."

Board member Laura Thielen objected to any suggestion that the standards are too high, noting that the goal for math proficiency was only 10 percent of the students at each school, while the goal for reading proficiency was 30 percent. The expectations will be higher in future years.

"The goal this year was very low," she said. "This 46 schools right now that are under planning for restructuring, this is pretty serious because this stuff ratchets up."

Hawai'i schools failed to meet their goals for a variety of reasons, from the test scores themselves to a high absence rate on the day of testing. The AYP reports revealed that:

There are 88 public schools from which parents can ask to transfer their children away from next school year. Those schools have missed AYP for at least two years in a row, which triggers a punitive label under No Child Left Behind. Out of those 88 schools, there are 80 from which parents can ask for supplementary tutoring services for their children because the schools have missed AYP for three or more years.

Most Hawai'i schools 192, or 68 percent still remain in good standing under No Child Left Behind. However, 115 of those schools missed AYP goals this year and are in danger of being labeled as "needing improvement" next year if they miss AYP again.

Every Hawai'i high school failed to meet AYP, in part because schools must have 95 percent of their students take the test, and few high schools can meet that attendance rate on a daily basis.

Several schools are improving their performance; 16 schools that did not meet testing goals in the past did well enough that they may be able to move out from under their NCLB label next year.

— Jennifer Hiller and Kevin Dayton
64% of schools fail under No Child act
Honolulu Advertiser


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