Tom Hartmann Interviews Justin Hughey After Successful

On May 4, 2010, Justin Hughey was interviewed on the Tom Hartmann radio program that boasts of over 3 million listeners. Tom was interested with Justin’s recent passing of a progressive resolution in the Hawaii State Legislature. Hear the interview in it’s entirety here: http://cdn2.thomhartmann.com/sites/default/files/private/podcasts/2010_0504_THP-050410-hour1.mp3

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VIEWPOINT: True Change & Accountability are Needed to End the Education Crisis

August 15, 2010

By JUSTIN HUGHEY

When it comes to the challenges faced by this state, perhaps nothing is as big as our crisis in education, especially considering that our children are our future.

As a 34-year-old teacher fed up with the embarrassing and worsening lack of support for our schools, I am running for the 8th District House seat in the state Legislature. My goal is to provide the keiki of Central Maui, as well as all of Hawaii, a true and unwavering voice for education reform that will give us a school system second to none instead of second to last. As one who works with kids daily and cares about their future, I have seen firsthand the ongoing frustrations with the status quo that puts the desires of back-line bureaucracies over those on the front lines trying to make our schools the best they can be. I believe that we can make an educational renaissance bloom in Hawaii if parents and teachers, with support from our community, work together to demand a true road map for reform that puts decision-making and proper resources at the school level.

My road map to an educational renaissance can be laid out using the following guideposts that will take us to one conclusion: Empower the teachers and principals at the local level and give them the tools to make the decisions and get the resources they need in the quickest time possible.

Fully fund education. (end furloughs forever). We now only have a one-year fix. The recent end to furloughs must be permanent so that no matter what happens to the economy we won’t have to go through something that was so disrupting and destructive to our kids’ educations, not to mention costing us millions of dollars in federal and private support for our schools.
Ensure local decision-making within our statewide school system.
End wasteful contracts for outside consultants.
Effectively measure student and school performance.
Conduct a fair and impartial audit of the Department of Education.
Cut DOE with a scalpel not a hatchet.
Eliminate the repair and maintenance backlog.
Make schools energy self-efficient.
Fully staff schools for a well-rounded education.
Create teacher incentives to establish and keep highly qualified teachers.
At the school where I have taught for the past five years, I have seen kids taking state assessment tests under a collapsed ceiling with rain pouring in because the state did not release funds to meet the growing repair and maintenance deficits of our schools. This is totally unacceptable. Moving these essential repairs and upgrades forward, along with ending teacher and student furloughs permanently, are our most pressing urgent needs.

While I live in Wailuku, the area I hope to represent, these education reforms are for all the children of Maui nei. The needs of kids who walk down Main and High streets in Wailuku are no different than the needs of kids from Hana to Lahaina. If the kids win through a school system that is second to none, then we, as a society, all win as well.

We can push back against the political maneuvering that is destroying our schools and children’s future.The battle to take back our educational system begins now. Maybe by putting this teacher in the House, we can teach other elected officials a lesson that real education reform means that they never waver in their commitment to empower those in the front lines of education so that we can have the schools that our community truly deserves.

Isn’t it time we put a teacher in the House?

* Justin Hughey of Wailuku is a candidate for the 8th District (Kahakuloa-Wailuku-Waikapu) House seat.

*****

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Candidates debate state of isle education

Several of those vying for lieutenant governor praise the efficiency of charter schools

By Dan Nakaso

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Sep 07, 2010, Star Advertiser

!Hawaii’s lieutenant governor candidates last night praised the efforts of island charter schools — especially the 16 that avoided Furlough Fridays while absorbing budget cuts — and called for more emphasis on early childhood education, but fell short on coming up with new ways to find money for promising programs.

The two-hour forum at the University of Hawaii’s architecture auditorium was devoted to education, which moderator and UH political science professor Neal Milner called “what many people think is the most important issue facing the state.”

The panel, attended by about 90 people, provided a few opportunities for showmanship.

When no one had turned on the auditorium’s air conditioning system by the 6:30 p.m. start, supporters of state Rep. Jon Riki Karamatsu used the opportunity to pass out Karamatsu hand fans to audience members.

State Sen. Gary Hooser stood to answer his first question, saying he was the first legislator to oppose Furlough Fridays, which resulted in Hawaii having the fewest instructional days in the nation.

“Unfortunately, not enough other people stood up with me,” Hooser said.

He said he wants to be “the wing man for education reform, for educational excellence. … When government tells you there’s no money, they’re really telling you it isn’t a priority. We need to make education and keep education a priority.”

The six Democrats and two Republicans who attended the forum were asked how they would reduce the huge backlog in repair and maintenance projects at UH and the Department of Education; repair Hawaii’s educational image; retain effective teachers in sometimes troubled communities; and find new sources of revenue for the DOE — or decide which programs to cut.

Hawaii’s selection to receive $75 million in Race to the Top federal funds also popped up periodically as a topic, but state Rep. Lyla Berg cautioned that “there is much we need to do before we can pour money into any educational system.”

Like Republican candidate Adrienne King, Berg said she wants to look at “inefficiencies and ineffective polices” in the DOE, and hopes to engage communities in identifying local roadblocks in their schools.

The event included some light political sparring among the group, which included seven current or former legislators, including Brian Schatz and Robert Bunda.

Asked how they would ensure adequate funding for charter schools, several of the candidates said the appropriate formula has been adopted by the Legislature and was held up by Gov. Linda Lingle’s administration.

“It’s the administration that sets the budget for charter schools, not the Department of Education,” state Sen. Norman Sakamoto said.

After several other candidates praised charter schools, Republican state Rep. Lynn Finnegan said she was “surprised everyone is so supportive of equal funding for charter schools. It never happens at the state Capitol. … If we were truly supportive of charter schools, we would have equal funding by now.”

Finnegan, who had two children attend Voyager charter school, said charter schools provide “a sneak peek into what the DOE can look like.”

Early childhood education was another popular theme, but none of the candidates had easy answers about how to provide more money.

The forum was the second on education sponsored by Save our Schools Hawaii and the committee organizing a Hawaii chapter of Parents for Public Schools.

Three candidates with less-visible campaigns did not participate: Democrat Steve Hirakami of the Big Island, Free Energy Party candidate Deborah Spence and nonpartisan candidate Leonard Kama.

The groups will hold their third candidate forum focusing on Hawaii’s gubernatorial candidates from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday at the UH architecture auditorium.

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$75M PAYDAY

Public schools will use federal funds to improve both students and teachers

By Mary Vorsino

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Aug 25, 2010

The $75 million Race to the Top federal grant announced yesterday for Hawaii schools will kick-start some of the biggest reform initiatives ever seen in the state’s public education system, educators say.

The money will be targeted on efforts to turn around low-performing schools, boost student achievement, better evaluate teacher effectiveness and steer low-performing teachers out of the classroom.

Officials say although the changes are sweeping, they are also doable — through measured phase-ins and targeted work to help students, teachers, principals and schools in need of the most help.

“I know we have a huge job ahead of us,” interim schools Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi said at a news conference yesterday. “We’re really talking about redesigning all of our system.”

The biggest challenge in the Race to the Top reforms, officials say, will likely be hammering out a performance-based teacher contract that will evaluate teachers, in part, on their students’ progress over the course of the school year.

Student growth could be measured by test scores, but their progress will also likely include other factors.

Hawaii was among 36 states for the second round of the highly competitive federal Race to the Top grants. Nine states and the District of Columbia were named grant winners yesterday.

Hawaii’s share represents a small fraction of the state Department of Education’s budget of $1.7 billion, but officials say the money will go far because it will create new programs — not be sunk into existing ones.

MORE COVERAGE

» Best teachers, bottom schools: Getting the best instructors to teach at the state’s lowest-performing schools is a key element in the Race to the Top plan. Story Educators also hope the grant will help mend the tattered reputation of Hawaii’s school system in the wake of teacher furloughs last school year, which gave Hawaii schools the shortest instructional calendar in the nation.
Lois Yamauchi, a parent of two children in public schools and a member of Save Our Schools, a group formed to protest the furloughs, said the Race to the Top award is a “nice success after a year that’s been so difficult for many educators and families.”

She added that she is looking forward to the reforms planned as part of Race to the Top, especially more emphasis on supporting teachers and moving away from putting too much weight on test scores as an indicator of how a school is doing.

Valerie Sonoda, president of PTSA-Hawaii, said nobody can say for certain whether the big reforms the DOE envisions will actually come to pass.

But, she said, it is important that the DOE make ambitious goals and work toward them.

“I think … (this) is an opportunity that Hawaii has to improve its education programs,” she said. “I’m hoping that the department will use the funds to reform education to ensure that we have the foundations in place so that we don’t have another furlough-type situation.”

The state has a rough time line for when it would like to see big improvement in key areas, and says poorly performing schools should be seeing see rising student achievement within a year.

A Hawaii team will travel next month to Washington, D.C., to work out key details of the grant, including when the Race to the Top money will be disbursed and what progress goals the state will have to meet.

Meantime, the state is entering collective bargaining now, and some teachers — in schools in need of the biggest improvements — could be on performance-based contracts as early as 2011.

All teachers are expected to be on the new contracts by 2013, when half of an evaluation will be based on student performance and the other half will be based on observations by a principal.

Evaluations are now based on qualitative assessments (such as how a teacher manages a classroom or tackles a lesson).

Al Nagasako, executive director of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, said teachers are wary of the changes and the new push to measure effectiveness.

But, he added, they are also interested in coming to the table and talking about how they can do their jobs better. He said the key is ensuring that ineffective teachers get the help they need to do better and those who show no improvement are counseled about possibly leaving the profession.

“Teachers are quite apprehensive. They’re definitely looking for the support to make it happen,” Nagasako said. But he added, “We’re at the table. We want to be part of it.”

The biggest chunk of the state’s Race grant — $33.2 million — will go to improving teacher and principal effectiveness through more training opportunities, bonuses for highly effective teachers and other initiatives.

The state will spend about $18.7 million from the Race grant on turning around the lowest-performing schools by instituting programs — including expanding pre-kindergarten opportunities and extending classroom time — in “zones of school innovation” on the Big Island and along the Leeward Coast.

Other key reform efforts include boosting classroom rigor by implementing the national common core standards curriculum, improving student performance data collection and use and reorganizing the DOE to better monitor and support reform.

Matayoshi stressed that none of the Race funds will be used to address budget shortfalls or tackle operational costs, like backlogged repairs.

“The money is meant to start reforms, to leverage reforms,” she said. “This is not intended to replace our general fund budget reductions.”

Yesterday at a Capitol news conference, state officials, Matayoshi and other educators were all smiles as they discussed the great strides they intend to make and said there was never any doubt that Hawaii’s school system could do great things.

“Some may be surprised we are a recipient. I don’t think it should be a surprise,” said Garrett Toguchi, chairman of the Board of Education. “Hawaii has proven … our schools have been doing a lot better” than commonly thought.

A panel of experts scored each Race to the Top application on a 500-point scale and rescored it after in-person interviews with finalists, in which states explained how their reforms were attainable.

Hawaii received 462 points, third highest after Massachusetts and New York. In the first round of grants, announced in March, Hawaii received merely 364 points in large part because its application was incomplete.

In a conference call with reporters yesterday, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said Hawaii’s application was “very impressive.”

“Despite the furlough days, Hawaii has a real chance to take student achievement to a different level,” Duncan said. “Hawaii absolutely put its best foot forward.”

Race to the Top grants are aimed at rewarding states that have “ambitious yet achievable” plans for implementing compelling and comprehensive education reform.

The federal government has doled out $4.35 billion through Race to the Top — $600 million of which was split between round-one winners Tennessee and Delaware — as part of a push to improve the nation’s education system and better prepare students for college or careers.

Some of the reform work outlined in the state’s Race to the Top application has already started, including efforts to institute new programs at Nana-kuli Intermediate and High School and Waianae High aimed at boosting student achievement through project-based learning.

Kamehameha Schools and others have teamed up with the DOE on some of those reforms, offering funding and other support to help struggling schools and close the achievement gap among native Hawaiians and disadvantaged children.

Kamehameha officials said yesterday the Race to the Top award would further mobilize other community partners and bolster public-private partnerships in schools.

“For Kamehameha it just makes total sense that we join arms with the public school system,” said Dee Jay Mailer, chief executive officer of Kamehameha Schools. She added that the Race grant — and its reforms — are “groundbreaking” for Hawaii.

“This is really going to jump-start and accelerate everything that’s going on,” she said. “It’s pretty exciting.”

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9 States, DC Get $3.4B in ‘Race to the Top’ Grants

Aug 24, 3:34 PM EDT

By DORIE TURNER
Associated Press Writer

ATLANTA (AP) — More than 13 million students and 1 million educators will share $3.4 billion from the second round of the federal “Race to the Top” grant competition, the U.S. Education Department said Tuesday.

The department chose nine states – Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Rhode Island – and the District of Columbia for the grants. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said 25,000 schools will get money to raise student learning and close the achievement gap.

The “Race to the Top” program, part of President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus plan, rewards states for taking up ambitious changes to improve struggling schools. The competition instigated a wave of reforms across the country, as states passed new teacher accountability policies and lifted caps on charter schools to boost their chances of winning.

“These states show what is possible when adults come together to do the right thing for children,” Duncan said in a conference call with reporters. “Every state that applied showed a tremendous amount of leadership and a bold commitment to education reform. The creativity and innovation in each of these applications is breathtaking.”

In the first round of the contest in the spring, just two states were winners – Tennessee and Delaware – and they scored more than 440 out of a possible 500 points. In this round, Duncan said all 10 winners scored more than 440 points, showing improvement in the applications.

The department wanted to choose more winners but “simply ran out of money,” Duncan said. He said he hopes to reward more applicants next year with another $1.3 billion for a third round.

For the winners, the grants mean a cash infusion at a time when education funding is dwindling, forcing teacher layoffs and program reductions. The awards range from $75 million for Rhode Island and D.C. to $700 million for New York.

“While this has seemed more like a marathon at times, now the real race begins,” said Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, whose state is getting $400 million. “This is truly a unique opportunity to implement a Georgia-created plan that will accelerate our work in improving student achievement.”

Georgia came in third in the first round of the $4.35 billion competition in March, losing out to Tennessee and Delaware, which are sharing $600 million. Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia applied for the second round of the competition, and the Education Department named 19 finalists in July.

The applicants named winners Tuesday will share $3.4 billion. Another $350 million is coming in a separate competition for states creating new academic assessments.

In their applications, winners promised to support charter schools, create tracking systems that follow students through their academic careers, and improve teacher training programs at state colleges.

One notable absence on the list of winners was Colorado, which passed a controversial law this year that ties teacher pay to student performance and allows the state to strip tenure from low-performing instructors. Colorado officials said they will forge ahead with reforms, though progress will be slowed without the federal cash.

“They clearly in Washington have a tin ear about how we do things in the West,” said Lt. Gov. Barbara O’Brien, who helped make the state’s pitch to the competition’s judges.

Like Colorado, at least 17 states vying for the money reformed teacher evaluation systems to include student achievement, and more than a dozen changed laws to foster the growth of charter schools. Dozens also adopted Common Core State Standards, the uniform math and reading benchmarks developed by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association.

“The change unleashed by conditioning federal funding on bold and forward-looking state education policies is indisputable,” the Democrats for Education Reform said in a statement. “Under the president’s leadership, local civil rights, child advocacy, business and education reform groups, in collaboration with those state and local teacher unions ready for change, sprung into action to achieve things that they had been waiting and wanting to do for years.”

In a speech announcing the finalists last month, Duncan called the change a “quiet revolution.”

“This is not about funding a few states on a pilot basis. This is about a national movement,” he said Tuesday.

But some education groups said “Race to the Top” rewarded states that have weak reform efforts while leaving out those like Colorado and Louisiana that have made strides to overhaul their schools.

“It becomes clear that the vagaries of peer reviewers and the prowess of grant writers are what drive results in such competitions, not true policy change, political courage, leadership or public commitment to reform,” said Mike Petrilli, a former Education Department official who is now vice president at the Fordham Institute.

Between both rounds of the competition, 46 states and the District of Columbia applied.

The competition for many states was an uphill battle, with teacher unions hesitant to sign on to reforms directly tying teacher evaluations to student performance on standardized tests, and education leaders concerned winning meant giving up too much local control.

Florida was among the states that got resistance from many teachers unions in the first round of the competition but won their support after taking a more collaborative approach in round two.

“I think it shows that when the governor brought all the stakeholders together, we came up with an application that was strong and doable,” said Andy Ford, president of the Florida Education Association, the statewide teachers’ union.

Other states, like Indiana, dropped out of the competition because of the lack of union support for the state’s application.

Associated Press writers Christine Armario in Miami and Michael Gormley in Albany, N.Y., contributed to this report.

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Hawaii among states to be awarded “Race to the Top” education money

August 24, 2010

ATLANTA (AP) – Hawaii is among nine states and the District of Columbia that will get money to reform schools in the second round of the $4.35 billion ”Race to the Top” grant competition, The U.S. Education Department said today.

In addition to Hawaii and Washington, D.C., Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Rhode Island will receive grants, department spokesman Justin Hamilton said.

Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle said the state’s share would be $75 million.

The historic program, part of President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus plan, rewards states for taking up ambitious changes to improve struggling schools, close the achievement gap and boost graduation rates.

The competition instigated a wave of reforms across the country, as states passed new teacher accountability policies and lifted caps on charter schools to boost their chances of winning.

”While this has seemed more like a marathon at times, now the real race begins,” Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue said in a written statement. ”This is truly a unique opportunity to implement a Georgia-created plan that will accelerate our work in improving student achievement.”

Georgia came in third in the first round of the competition in March, losing out to Tennessee and Delaware, which are sharing $600 million. Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia applied for the second round of the competition, and the Education Department named 19 finalists in July.

The applicants named winners Tuesday will share a remaining $3.4 billion. Another $350 million is coming in a separate competition for states creating new academic assessments.

One notable absence on the list of winners was Colorado, which passed a controversial law this year that ties teacher pay to student performance and allows the state to strip tenure from low-performing instructors.

Colorado officials were expected to comment later today.

More than a dozen states vying for the money changed laws to foster the growth of charter schools, and at least 17 reformed teacher evaluation systems to include student achievement. Dozens also adopted Common Core State Standards, the uniform math and reading benchmarks developed by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association.

”The change unleashed by conditioning federal funding on bold and forward-looking state education policies is indisputable,” the Democrats for Education Reform said in a statement. ”Under the president’s leadership, local civil rights, child advocacy, business and education reform groups, in collaboration with those state and local teacher unions ready for change, sprung into action to achieve things that they had been waiting and wanting to do for years.”

In a speech announcing the finalists last month, Education Secretary Arne Duncan called the change a ”quiet revolution.”

Between both rounds of the competition, a total of 46 states and the District of Columbia applied.

While the program has been praised for instigating swift reforms, the competition for many states was an uphill battle, with teacher unions hesitant to sign on to reforms directly tying teacher evaluations to student performance on standardized tests, and education leaders concerned winning meant giving up too much local control.

Florida was among the states that got resistance from many teachers unions in the first round of the competition but won their support after taking a more collaborative approach in round two.

”I think it shows that when the governor brought all the stakeholders together, we came up with an application that was strong and doable,” said Andy Ford, president of the Florida Education Association, the statewide teachers’ union. ”The Department of Education saw the progress that we made and I just hope that collaboration and cooperation continues at the local level.”

Other states, like Indiana, dropped out of the competition because of the lack of union support for the state’s application.

A number of states that did not win the competition said they still planned to proceed with the reforms they had proposed, though they acknowledged change would take place at a slower pace without the financial boost of ”Race to the Top.”

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Hawaii Teacher Shortage as Furloughs Continue

Teacher Shortage as Hawaii Furloughs Continue

Shortage Areas & Subjects

The U.S. Department of Education has identified Teacher Shortage Areas for the 2010-2011 school year.
Computer
English
Foreign Languages
Hawaiian
Mathematics
Science
Special Education
Vocational Education

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VIEWPOINT: True Change & Accountability are Needed to End the Education Crisis

August 15, 2010

By JUSTIN HUGHEY

When it comes to the challenges faced by this state, perhaps nothing is as big as our crisis in education, especially considering that our children are our future.

As a 34-year-old teacher fed up with the embarrassing and worsening lack of support for our schools, I am running for the 8th District House seat in the state Legislature. My goal is to provide the keiki of Central Maui, as well as all of Hawaii, a true and unwavering voice for education reform that will give us a school system second to none instead of second to last. As one who works with kids daily and cares about their future, I have seen firsthand the ongoing frustrations with the status quo that puts the desires of back-line bureaucracies over those on the front lines trying to make our schools the best they can be. I believe that we can make an educational renaissance bloom in Hawaii if parents and teachers, with support from our community, work together to demand a true road map for reform that puts decision-making and proper resources at the school level.

My road map to an educational renaissance can be laid out using the following guideposts that will take us to one conclusion: Empower the teachers and principals at the local level and give them the tools to make the decisions and get the resources they need in the quickest time possible.

Fully fund education. (end furloughs forever). We now only have a one-year fix. The recent end to furloughs must be permanent so that no matter what happens to the economy we won’t have to go through something that was so disrupting and destructive to our kids’ educations, not to mention costing us millions of dollars in federal and private support for our schools.
Ensure local decision-making within our statewide school system.
End wasteful contracts for outside consultants.
Effectively measure student and school performance.
Conduct a fair and impartial audit of the Department of Education.
Cut DOE with a scalpel not a hatchet.
Eliminate the repair and maintenance backlog.
Make schools energy self-efficient.
Fully staff schools for a well-rounded education.
Create teacher incentives to establish and keep highly qualified teachers.
At the school where I have taught for the past five years, I have seen kids taking state assessment tests under a collapsed ceiling with rain pouring in because the state did not release funds to meet the growing repair and maintenance deficits of our schools. This is totally unacceptable. Moving these essential repairs and upgrades forward, along with ending teacher and student furloughs permanently, are our most pressing urgent needs.

While I live in Wailuku, the area I hope to represent, these education reforms are for all the children of Maui nei. The needs of kids who walk down Main and High streets in Wailuku are no different than the needs of kids from Hana to Lahaina. If the kids win through a school system that is second to none, then we, as a society, all win as well.

We can push back against the political maneuvering that is destroying our schools and children’s future.The battle to take back our educational system begins now. Maybe by putting this teacher in the House, we can teach other elected officials a lesson that real education reform means that they never waver in their commitment to empower those in the front lines of education so that we can have the schools that our community truly deserves.

Isn’t it time we put a teacher in the House?

* Justin Hughey of Wailuku is a candidate for the 8th District (Kahakuloa-Wailuku-Waikapu) House seat.

*****

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Schools Stall in Test Scores

Proficiency in reading has improved, but 117 schools are still struggling

By Mary Vorsino, Honolulu Star Advertiser

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Aug 13, 2010

Despite making steady improvement in overall test scores, most Hawaii public schools continue to see a sizable group of students who are “well below” proficiency levels in reading and math, school-by-school results released yesterday show.

At 221 of the state’s 286 public and charter schools, the percentage of students in one or more grade levels who tested “well below” proficiency in math in the Hawaii State Assessment reached or exceeded 25 percent.

Reading proficiency was better. Even so, in 117 schools at least a quarter of students in one or more grade levels tested “well below” proficiency.

The results come as schools face proficiency goals that go up another notch under No Child Left Behind this year, and also begin major curriculum shifts to align with national standards.

For a school to have attained NCLB goals in the 2009-10 school year, 58 percent of students had to demonstrate proficiency in reading on the Hawaii State Assessment, and 46 percent had to be proficient in math.

After staying the same for three years, the benchmarks increase this year: 72 percent of students will have to be proficient in reading, and 64 percent of students proficient in math.

By 2014, 100 percent of students are expected to demonstrate a high level of skill in core subjects.

“The reality is we know we’re going to go up another set of benchmarks,” said Dan Hamada, Department of Education assistant superintendent for the office of curriculum, instruction and student support. “As a system we’re moving toward it. We just need to fine-tune which schools are lagging and how do we help them.”

Schools got a pleasant surprise earlier this summer when education officials announced that despite losing 17 instructional days to teacher furloughs, more schools reached adequate yearly progress under NCLB. This year, 141 public schools made adequate yearly progress (AYP), compared with 101 schools last year and 119 in 2008.

Still, 51 percent of schools, or 145 campuses, did not meet the annual goals — and some fell far short of the benchmarks.

The state places student test scores into four categories: “well below standards,” “approaches,” “meets” or “exceeds.”

Sixty-seven percent of 10th-graders at Nanakuli High and Intermediate School tested “well below” proficient in math, and 39 percent were “well below” in reading, the school-by-school results show.

At Hilo High School, 45 percent of students tested “well below” proficient in math, and 27 percent were “well below” in reading.

But other schools are making big gains — and achieving scores above the benchmarks.

Mililani Waena Elementary School had another year of improvement — with 82 percent of students testing proficient in reading (up 7 percentage points from the year before) and 77 percent testing proficient in math (up from 71 percent in 2009).

The school of 600 students — 28 percent of whom are on free or reduced-cost lunch — has gained consistently in recent years and has met NCLB benchmarks every year since 2007.

Principal Dale Castro, in his fifth year at Mililani Waena, said the key is continuously tracking student progress to make sure no one is lagging behind, and giving teachers time to talk about how their students are doing and steps they are taking to boost student achievement.

Teachers at the school meet for 80 minutes every three days for “student-focused planning time” to compare notes and plan curricula and strategy.

Castro said the school — along with every grade level and classroom — also sets its own proficiency goals. For this year the school hopes to have 85 percent of students proficient in reading and 80 percent proficient in math.

“The process of setting goals and reflecting on them helps people to stay on track and make real-time adjustments,” Castro said. “Our goal has always been to ensure every student is making progress.”

Some 93,190 students in grades 3 through 8 and in grade 10 took the Hawaii State Assessment tests in April.

Overall, statewide results showed 67 percent of public school students tested proficient in reading, and 49 percent of students were proficient in math.

High schools have historically had a tougher time meeting the benchmarks, especially in math, and the number of high schools meeting proficiency goals has shrunk as the standards have risen.

Some predict this school year could be the first time no Hawaii high schools meet rising proficiency goals.

Only five high schools achieved AYP for reading and math in the 2009-10 year, and all those campuses will have to increase proficiency to meet the new goals this year.

John Sosa, principal of Kaiser High School, said the campus is focusing on improving math proficiency. The school met AYP, with 86 percent of 10th-graders testing proficient in reading and 53 percent testing proficient in math.

The school needs to increase the number of students proficient in math by 11 percent to meet this year’s benchmark.

Sosa said he is hopeful the state’s switch to online testing will make a difference, since for first time students will be able to take the assessment up to three times (with the highest score counted).

The online test is also designed to appeal to today’s tech-savvy students, with interactive elements such as animation and computer graphics.

Students will be able to take the online assessments during an eight-month period, from October to May. Schools were administering the paper test during three weeks in April, and results did not come out until July.

“We are hopeful with the switch to the online testing format that some of those pencil-and-paper issues that arose might in fact benefit the students,” Sosa said. “Will it be enough (to attain AYP)? We’re not sure. We’re going to try really hard.”

Sosa added that the school thrives by stressing student achievement, not necessarily high test scores.

“We tend not to focus on the AYP,” he said.

There has been talk nationally of overhauling NCLB, which critics say overemphasizes test scores, but for now it is still the law so schools must try to meet annual benchmarks — and face sanctions if they fail.

Kualapuu Elementary School on Molokai is celebrating after meeting adequate yearly progress this year — and making big gains. Sixty-one percent of students at the charter school tested proficient in math, up from 47 percent last year.

Principal Lydia Trinidad said the improvements were possible thanks to lots of tutoring and directed help. The school, which became a public charter school in 2004 because it was falling short of NCLB goals, has 385 kids. Of those, 75 percent are low-income.

Trinidad said the campus, which gets significant financial support from Kamehameha Schools, is focusing this school year on “making conscious adjustments” to improve student achievement.

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On ‘No Child Left Behind’

Education’s foremost historian on where NCLB went wrong, ending the testing regime, and why we need neighborhood schools.

Adapted from The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, by Diane Ravitch (Basic Books, 2010).

By Diane Ravitch

On ‘No Child Left Behind’

I was initially supportive of NCLB. Who could object to ensuring that children mastered the basic skills of reading and mathematics? Who could object to an annual test of those skills? Certainly not I.

My support for NCLB remained strong until November 30, 2006. That was the day I went to a conference at the American Enterprise Institute, a well-respected conservative think tank in Washington, D.C. The conference examined whether the major remedies prescribed by NCLB—especially choice and after-school tutoring—were effective. Was the “NCLB toolkit” working? The various presentations that day demonstrated that state education departments were drowning in new bureaucratic requirements, procedures, and routines, and that none of the prescribed remedies was making a difference.

I started to doubt the entire approach to school reform that NCLB represented. I started to see the danger of the culture of testing that was spreading through every school in every community, town, city and state.

The most toxic flaw in NCLB was its legislative command that all students in every school must be proficient in reading and mathematics by 2014, including students with special needs, students whose native language is not English, students who are homeless and lacking in any societal advantage, and students who have every societal advantage but are not interested in their schoolwork. All will be proficient by 2014. And if they are not, then their schools and teachers will suffer the consequences.

The 2014 goal is a timetable for the demolition of public education in the United States. The goal of 100 percent proficiency has placed thousands of public schools at risk of being privatized, turned into charters, or closed. And indeed, scores of schools in New York City, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and other districts were closed because they were unable to meet the unreasonable demands of NCLB. Superintendents in those districts boasted of how many schools they had closed, as if it were a badge of honor rather than an admission of defeat.

As the clock ticks toward 2014, ever larger numbers of public schools will be forced to close or become charter schools, relinquish control to state authorities, become privately managed, or undergo some other major restructuring. Yet, to date, there is no substantial body of evidence that demonstrates that low-performing schools can be turned around by any of the remedies prescribed in the law. Furthermore, [NCLB’s] simpleminded and singular focus on test scores distorts and degrades the meaning and practice of education.

One of the unintended consequences of NCLB was the shrinkage of time available to teach anything other than reading and math. Other subjects, including history, science, the arts, geography, even recess, were curtailed in many schools. Reading and mathematics were the only subjects that counted in calculating a school’s adequate yearly progress, and even in these subjects, instruction gave way to intensive test preparation. Test scores became an obsession. Many school districts invested heavily in test-preparation materials and activities. Test-taking skills and strategies took precedence over knowledge. Teachers used the tests from previous years to prepare their students, and many of the questions appeared in precisely the same format every year; sometimes the exact same questions reappeared on the state tests. In urban schools, where there are many low-performing students, drill and practice became a significant part of the daily routine.

NCLB assumed that shaming schools that were unable to lift test scores every year—and the people who work in them—would lead to higher scores. It assumed that low scores are caused by lazy teachers and lazy principals. Perhaps most naively, it assumed that higher test scores on standardized tests of basic skills are synonymous with good education. Its assumptions were wrong.

On Her Favorite Teacher

My favorite teacher was Mrs. Ruby Ratliff. More than fifty years ago, she was my homeroom teacher at San Jacinto High School in Houston, and I was lucky enough to get into her English class as a senior.

Mrs. Ratliff was gruff and demanding. She did not tolerate foolishness or disruptions. She had a great reputation among students. When it came time each semester to sign up for classes, there was always a long line outside her door. What I remember most about her was what she taught us. We studied the greatest writers of the English language, not their long writings like novels (no time for that), but their poems and essays. I still recall a class discussion of Shelley’s “Ozymandias,” and the close attention that thirty usually rowdy adolescents paid to a poem about a time and place we could barely imagine. Now, many years later, in times of stress or sadness, I still turn to poems that I first read in Mrs. Ratliff’s class.

She had a red pen and she used it freely. Still, she was always sure to make a comment that encouraged us to do a better job. Clearly she had multiple goals for her students, beyond teaching literature and grammar. She was also teaching about character and personal responsibility. These are not the sorts of things that appear on any standardized test.

At our graduation, she made a gift of a line or two of poetry to each of the students in her homeroom. I got these two: “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield,” the last line of Tennyson’s “Ulysses,” which we had read in class, and “among them, but not of them,” from Byron’s “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage,” which we had not read in class. As she did in class, Mrs. Ratliff used the moment to show us how literature connected to our own lives, without condescending into shallow “relevance.” I think these were the best graduation presents I got, because they are the only ones I remember a half century later.

I think of Mrs. Ratliff when I hear the latest proposals to improve the teaching force. I believe Mrs. Ratliff was a great teacher, but I don’t think she would have been considered “great” if she had been judged by the kind of hard data that is used now. How would the experts have measured what we learned? We never took a multiple-choice test. We wrote essays and took written tests in which we had to explain our answers, not check a box or fill in a bubble. If she had been evaluated by the grades she gave, she would have been in deep trouble, because she did not award many A grades. An observer might have concluded that she was a very ineffective teacher.

Would any school today recognize her ability to inspire her students to love literature? Would she get a bonus for expecting her students to use good grammar, accurate spelling, and good syntax? Would she win extra dollars for insisting that her students write long essays and for grading them promptly? I don’t think so. And let’s face it: She would be stifled not only by the data mania of her supervisors, but by the jargon, the indifference to classical literature, and the hostility to her manner of teaching that now prevail in our schools.

On Teacher Unions

Data-driven education leaders say that academic performance lags because we don’t have enough “effective” teachers. The major obstacle to getting enough effective teachers and getting rid of ineffective teachers, they say, is the teachers’ unions.

Critics of teacher unions seem to be more plentiful now than ever before. Supporters of choice and vouchers see the unions as the major obstacle to their reforms. One would think, by reading the critics, that the nation’s schools are overrun by incompetent teachers who hold their jobs only because of union protections, that unions are directly responsible for poor student performance, and that academic achievement would soar if the unions were to disappear.

This is unfair. No one, to my knowledge, has demonstrated a clear, indisputable correlation between teacher unionism and academic achievement, either negative or positive. The Southern states, where teachers’ unions have historically been either weak or nonexistent, have always had the poorest student performance on national examinations. Massachusetts, the state with the highest academic performance, has long had strong teacher unions. The difference in performance is probably due to economics, not to unionization. Where there are affluent communities, student performance tends to be higher, whether or not their teachers belong to unions.

Critics say the union contract makes it impossible for administrators to get rid of bad teachers. The union says it protects teachers against arbitrary dismissals. To be sure, it is not easy to fire a tenured teacher, but it can be done so long as there is due process in hearing the teacher’s side of the story. But the issue should not take years to resolve. When it comes to decisions about terminating a teacher, unions want to be part of the decision-making process. It is not in the interest of their members to have incompetent teachers in their midst, passing along poorly educated students to the next teacher. Since unions are not going to disappear, district officials should collaborate with them to develop a fair and expeditious process for removing incompetent teachers, rather than using the union as a scapegoat for low performance or for conditions in the school and society that are beyond the teachers’ control.

On “The Billionaire Boys’ Club”

In 2002, the top two [education] philanthropies were the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation; these two foundations alone were responsible for 25 percent of all funds contributed by the top fifty donors in that year.

The new titans of the foundation world were billionaire entrepreneurs and corporate leaders. They were soon joined in education philanthropy by another billionaire, Eli Broad, who made his fortune in home building and the insurance industry; he launched the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation in 1999. Unlike the older established foundations, such as Ford, Rockefeller, and Carnegie, which reviewed proposals submitted to them, the new foundations decided what they wanted to accomplish, how they wanted to accomplish it, and which organizations were appropriate recipients of their largesse.

Gates, Walton, and Broad came to be called venture philanthropies, organizations that made targeted investments in education reform.

[They] began with different emphases, but over time they converged in support of reform strategies that mirrored their own experience in acquiring huge fortunes, such as competition, choice, deregulation, incentives, and other market-based approaches. These were not familiar concepts in the world of education, where high value is placed on collaboration. The venture philanthropies used their funds assertively to promote their goals. Not many school districts could resist their offers. School districts seldom have much discretionary money. The money expended by a foundation—even one that spends $100 million annually—may seem small in comparison to the hundreds of millions or billions spent by public school districts. But the offer of a multimillion-dollar grant by a foundation is enough to cause most superintendents and school boards to drop everything and reorder their priorities.

And so it happened that the Gates, Walton, and Broad foundations came to exercise vast influence over American education. These foundations set the policy agenda not only for school districts, but also for states and even the U.S. Department of Education.
There is something fundamentally antidemocratic about relinquishing control of the public education policy agenda to private foundations run by society’s wealthiest people. These foundations, no matter how worthy and high-minded, are not subject to public oversight or review, as a public agency would be. They have taken it upon themselves to reform public education, perhaps in ways that would never survive the scrutiny of voters in any district or state. If voters don’t like the foundations’ reform agenda, they can’t vote them out of office. The foundations demand that public schools and teachers be held accountable for performance, but they themselves are accountable to no one. If their plans fail, no sanctions are levied against them.

The foundations justify their assertive agenda by pointing to the persistently low performance of public schools in urban districts. Having seen so little progress over recent years, they now seem determined to privatize public education to the greatest extent possible. They are allocating millions of dollars to increase the number of charter schools. They assume that if children are attending privately managed schools, and if teachers and principals are recruited from nontraditional backgrounds, then student achievement will improve dramatically. They base this conclusion on the success of a handful of high-visibility charter schools (including KIPP, Achievement First, and Uncommon Schools) that in 2009 accounted for about 300 of the nation’s approximately 4,600 charter schools.

If we continue on the present course, with big foundations and the federal government investing heavily in opening more charter schools, the result is predictable. Charter schools in urban centers will enroll the motivated children of the poor, while the regular public schools will become schools of last resort for those who never applied or were rejected. The regular public schools will enroll a disproportionate share of students with learning disabilities and students who are classified as English-language learners; they will enroll the kids from the most troubled home circumstances, the ones with the worst attendance records and the lowest grades and test scores.

Do we need neighborhood public schools? I believe we do. The neighborhood school is the place where parents meet to share concerns about their children and the place where they learn the practice of democracy. They create a sense of community among strangers. As we lose neighborhood public schools, we lose the one local institution where people congregate and mobilize to solve local problems, where individuals learn to speak up and debate and engage in democratic give-and-take with their neighbors.

The market is not the best way to deliver public services. Just as every neighborhood should have a reliable fire station, every neighborhood should have a good public school. Privatizing our public schools makes as much sense as privatizing the fire department or the police department.

American education has a long history of infatuation with fads and ill-considered ideas. The current obsession with making our schools work like a business may be the worst of them, for it threatens to destroy public education. Who will stand up to the tycoons and politicians and tell them so?

On How to Improve Our Schools

What can we do to improve schools and education? Plenty.

We must first of all have a vision of what good education is. We should have goals that are worth striving for. Everyone involved in educating children should ask themselves why we educate. What is a well-educated person? What knowledge is of most worth? What do we hope for when we send our children to school? What do we want them to learn and accomplish by the time they graduate from school?

Certainly we want them to be able to read and write and be numerate. But that is not enough. We want to prepare them for a useful life. We want them to be able to think for themselves when they are out in the world on their own. We want them to have good character and to make sound decisions about their life, their work, and their health. We want them to face life’s joys and travails with courage and humor. We hope that they will be kind and compassionate in their dealings with others. We want them to have a sense of justice and fairness. We want them to understand our nation and our world and the challenges we face. We want them to be active, responsible citizens, prepared to think issues through carefully, to listen to differing views, and to reach decisions rationally. We want them to learn science and mathematics so they understand the problems of modern life and participate in finding solutions. We want them to enjoy the rich artistic and cultural heritage of our society and other societies.

If these are our goals, the current narrow, utilitarian focus of our national testing regime is not sufficient to reach any of them. Indeed, to the extent that we make the testing regime our master, we may see our true goals recede farther and farther into the distance. By our current methods, we may be training (not educating) a generation of children who are repelled by learning, thinking that it means only drudgery, worksheets, test preparation, and test-taking.

Our nation’s commitment to provide universal, free public education has been a crucial element in the successful assimilation of millions of immigrants and in the ability of generations of Americans to improve their lives. As we seek to reform our schools, we must take care to do no harm. In fact, we must take care to make our public schools once again the pride of our nation. To the extent that we strengthen them, we strengthen our democracy.

Diane Ravitch received the NEA Friend of Education Award at the 2010 NEA Representative Assembly in New Orleans, Louisiana.


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