Policy Brief

Hawaii Keeps Race to Top Grant, 'High Risk' Status

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The U.S. Department of Education has decided not to pull Hawaii's $75 million Race to the Top grant but to keep the grant on "high risk" status after federal officials visited the state to check in on progress. However, a deal on teacher evaluations—seen as crucial to the state keeping its grant—still faces major obstacles.

The state was notified Dec. 21 by the department that it was in danger of losing its grant because it had not made "adequate progress" in implementing various pieces of its Race to the Top program. But in a May 4 letter, state officials were told they were on the right track.

"Hawaii has taken important steps in the right direction to address setbacks in their Race to the Top work over the last year," Ann Whalen, the department's director of policy and program implementation, said in a statement.

Still, Hawaii Superintendent of Education Kathryn Matayoshi stressed that the state had made excellent progress since December, particularly in classrooms and with teachers.

"We were in a pretty deep hole, and we knew we needed to dig our way out," Ms. Matayoshi said in a May 8 interview.

Department officials will conduct another review in five to six months to re-evaluate their decision. Meanwhile, the department has approved a revised budget and key milestones for Hawaii's plan.

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But unlike in other states, Hawaii's new teacher-evaluation system isn't yet set in law or regulations. The state board recently voted unanimously to adopt it, but members of the Hawaii State Teachers Association rejected a tentative agreement in January.

Wil Okabe, the president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, said in a May 7 email that the association resubmitted the previous January agreement on teacher evaluations to its members for a new vote.

However, a spokeswoman for Gov. Neil Abercrombie, a Democrat, indicated in a May 8 email that the governor no longer views the tentative agreement from January as on the table.

"The parties will need to follow the normal procedures of collective bargaining," said the spokeswoman, Donalyn Dela Cruz.

Vol. 31, Issue 31, Page 21

Published in Print: May 16, 2012, as Hawaii Will Retain Race to Top Grant, 'High Risk' Status
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