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Organization pans state education system


Stephens Media

A national organization that has been ranking states’ educational policies and outcomes for nearly two decades dropped Hawaii’s grade this year in some areas, but noted significant improvements in others.

The American Legislative Exchange Council gave Hawaii a C- for educational policies in this year’s report, the 18th such report it has commissioned. In 2011, the council gave the state a C+ for those policies, putting Hawaii at 37 out of 50 states. A message left with the council, which is based in Washington, D.C., was not returned.

Multiple phone and email messages were left with Department of Education communications staff Friday and Monday seeking comment on the report. No one from the department responded to those messages.

The state Department of Education showed improvement in the National Assessment of Educational Progress, moving from 15th on that ranking to 13th overall. The ranking considers the overall 2011 test scores for low-income students and the gains and losses of fourth- and eighth-grade students in reading and math exams from 2003 to 2011. When just the scores of low-income students are considered, Hawaii had the third-highest improvement in math scores from 2003 to 2011, and the 25th-highest improvement in reading scores, the report said.

Hawaii received relatively high marks for academic standards, a B+ for English and language arts and an A- for mathematics, according to the report. The report gave a much lower grade to the state for its teacher quality and policies, with an overall grade of D-. That grade was taken from marks on several measures, including an F for the state’s ability to expand the teaching pool and Ds for delivering well-prepared teachers, identifying effective teachers, retaining effective teachers and getting rid of ineffective teachers.

The report gave the state a C for home school regulation, which meant the regulations are a “moderate” burden. It noted the state allows charter schools, but gave the state’s charter school law a D.

Hawaii also ranked 13th in spending per student with $14,234 spent each year per student.

The council identified its key aims as limited government, free markets and federalism. Those aims were reflected throughout the report, which also highlighted moves council officials saw as important legislative achievements.

“The average American student still attends a school system that routinely practices social promotion, where school choice is scarce to nonexistent, where course options are limited for students seeking education beyond core classes and where highly effective teachers go unrewarded,” the report’s introduction said. “At the same time, highly ineffective teachers remain untouched by corrective actions. Many states continue to cling to absurd barriers to entry for those seeking to join the teaching profession, despite demonstrations that the barriers do nothing to promote student learning and have no link to teacher effectiveness. Most states continue to boost teacher pay based upon demonstrably meaningless credentials and age alone.”

The report also called out Hawaii as one of 14 states where it is “illegal” to consider student performance in making layoff decisions.

“This objectionable policy caters to the self-interest of a few, while endangering many children’s futures,” the report said.

Email Erin Miller at emiller@westhawaiitoday.com.


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