The U.S. Department of Education has taken two parts of Hawaii’s $75 million Race to the Top grant off the “high-risk status” list, now that the state has shown what the department considers progress in hitting milestones in two areas: standards and assessments, and data systems.
In a Feb. 9 letter to Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie, federal officials said that Hawaii provided “clear and compelling evidence of substantial progress.”
But Hawaii is still on high-risk status for four other parts of its grant—teachers and leaders, low-performing schools, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), and a general Race to the Top area called “state success factors.” Federal officials are planning an April site visit to evaluate the state’s progress again.
Last week’s move by the federal department is mostly symbolic, but sends a strong message to those working on Race to the Top in Hawaii—and those monitoring implementation of the grants overall—that the Aloha State is on the right track. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan last month, in fact, singled out Hawaii for making “real progress” in fulfilling its promises.
“This is a turning point for us as we continue our strategic transformation in our public schools,” said schools Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi in a statement last week. “The progress being made gives us great hope that federal officials will acknowledge the improvements made in the other areas of the grant.”
In 2011, the federal department put Hawaii’s entire grant on high-risk status after it failed to reach a contract with its teachers’ union to implement new teacher evaluations based in part on student growth. The state struggled with other parts of its plan as well. Although Hawaii has made a lot of progress since then, a teachers’ contract remains elusive. Since part of its high-risk status remains, the state is still in danger of losing a portion of its winnings.
A version of this article appeared in the February 20, 2013 edition of Education Week as Parts of Hawaii’s Federal Grant No Longer at Risk