Standards and Accountability: Hawaii’s score improved from last year because it now has clear and specific standards in English in all grade spans, and in social studies/history in the middle and high school levels.
A strong accountability system includes well-developed standards in English, mathematics, science, and social studies/history in all grade spans, and tests aligned with those standards.
Hawaii has clear and specific standards in English, math, and science at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. But its standards for social studies/history are clear and specific in middle and high school only, based on ratings by the American Federation of Teachers.
One of the strengths of Hawaii’s testing system is its mix of test items.
Hawaii is one of 19 states that use multiple-choice, short-answer, and extended-response questions in English and other subjects to measure performance throughout a student’s career.
The state reports test results on school report cards and uses the results to rate schools. Hawaii provides help for schools rated low-performing, and those that don’t improve face state-imposed sanctions.
But the state does not provide rewards to high-performing or improving schools.
Efforts to Improve Teacher Quality: Hawaii requires prospective teachers to pass the full spectrum of basic-skills, subject-knowledge, and subject-specific-pedagogy tests to earn licenses.
The state issues only one level of license, however, rather than distinguishing between novices and teachers with additional qualifications and skills through performance assessments, such as classroom observations or portfolios.
Instead of requiring future teachers to complete a set amount of subject-area coursework, the state has moved to a performance-based system. Individual teacher-preparation institutions determine how much coursework their students complete. Hawaii also does not require prospective teachers to complete a minimum amount of student teaching, which brings down its grade.
The state pays for professional development for its teachers, but does not finance and require mentoring for all new teachers.
Hawaii produces separate No Child Left Behind Act accountability reports, in addition to its existing school report cards, both of which include teacher-qualification data.
The state identifies its low-performing teacher-training programs, but does not publish the passing rates of graduates on licensure exams by institution.
School Climate: Below-average data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress background survey hit Hawaii’s grade for school climate hard. Fifty-two percent of 4th graders and 20 percent of 8th graders attend schools whose administrators view lack of parent involvement as a minor problem or not a problem, the poorest showing in the nation for 8th graders on that indicator.
Data from the NAEP survey also point to problems with student absenteeism, tardiness, and classroom misbehavior compared with other states.
Also contributing to the state’s lackluster grade is the low percentage of students who attend small schools, relative to other states.
But the news is not all bad. Hawaii stands out as one of 17 states that survey educators and others about conditions in schools. The state administers a School Quality Survey to parents, students, and teachers and makes the results available to the public, including on school report cards.
Equity: Hawaii is unique in having a single, statewide school district.
As a single district, the state performs well on the indicators of resource equity, which are based on disparities in district-level revenue. Hawaii lacks any district-to-district variations in funding, and thus achieves a perfect equity score by default, according to a district-level analysis.
Spending: Hawaii’s education spending per student received a boost of almost 11 percent between the 2001 and 2002 fiscal years. But the state still ranks 35th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia on this indicator, at $7,326 per pupil in the 2001-02 school year. Hawaii ranks 13th out of 50 states and the District of Columbia on the spending index, which considers how many students are in districts spending below the national per-pupil average, and what it would take to bring spending for those students up to the national average. Hawaii is slightly above the national average in the percentage of total taxable resources spent on education, at 3.9 percent.