HIDOE data shows big disparities in academic achievement

LIHU‘E — Just 23% of economically disadvantaged students tested on or above grade level in English language arts in Hawai‘i public schools, while 51% of non-high-needs students tested on or above grade level.

Last week at the state Board of Education meeting, the state Department of Education presented a more-in-depth analysis of this year’s fall universal-screener data, painting a sobering picture of achievement disparities between students classified as high needs and non-high needs.

Students who are economically disadvantaged, are special needs including those with an individualized education plan or are English language learners are all considered high needs by the DOE.

According to DOE Communication Specialist Derek Inoshita, the universal-screening process looks at multiple data sources: quantitative and qualitative, formal and informal, across the academic, behavioral, social and emotional and physical domains of the whole child to identify or predict students who may be at risk for poor learning outcomes with consideration for cultural and linguistic responsiveness and recognition of student strengths. Universal-screnner data is reported in two catagories — math and English language arts.

In math, just 16% of economically disadvantaged students met the grade-level expectations, compared to 39% of their non-high-need peers.

Achievement disparities were even higher for English learners. Just 12% in ELA and 9% in math met their grade-level expectations.

Smarter Balanced Assessment Data for Kaua‘i show geographic disparities and big achievement slides since the start of the pandemic.

While the Smarter Balenced Assessment scores may be one portion of the the universal-screener process, it is reported as its own score.

Waimea-area students struggled, with 15% or less of those in grades six to eight having met grade-level-achievement standards in math.

The Kaua‘i Complex Area performed the best in this subject with this age range, but still only had between 20% and 36% of students test proficient.

State DOE Kauai Complex Area Superintendent Paul Zina could not be reached for comment.

At Thursday’s BOE meeting, the DOE also presented proposed legislation for the 2022 legislative session that would expand opportunities for students to receive credit for work outside of school but had no measures directly addressing student achievement. This caught the eye of both board and community members.

“At a time when we have so much work to do, is this really the right time for this?” asked Board Member at Large Bruce Voss. “I mean, does this send the right message to the Legislature that this is one of the department’s priorities?”

Cheri Nakamura, director of the HE‘E Coalition, shared Voss’s concerns during oral testimony. Nakamura questioned if students struggling in fundamental math and literacy skills would even be able to access these opportunities.

“Why isn’t there any proposed legislation on helping our struggling students?” Nakamura asked.

Kapa‘a High School Academy and Early College Director Kahele Keawe doesn’t see this as an either-or situation.

Keawe emphasized students who are struggling academically will continue to be supported in the classroom and will also benefit from the proposed legislation that would open up more opportunities outside the classroom. Keawe believes that that could mean a boost in student learning.

“Students learn in different ways,” said Keawe. “Students that perhaps struggle with a lecture, you put them in an active, hands-on environment and, all of a sudden, they excel.”

The legislation would impact high-needs students.

Special-education students and English-language learners are currently enrolled in the career academies at Kapa‘a High School, and would see expanded opportunities if the proposed legislation is eventually enacted.

The legislation would also allow the DOE to transfer revenue from school commercial enterprises to other department funds.

Keawe hopes that this would make commercial endeavors, like selling produce grown by agricultural students at a farmers market, possible.

“These opportunities would be able to continue to fund the academies, and so they’d be self-sustaining,” said Keawe.

BOE Chair Catherine Payne sees potential in the legislation, but wants to make sure that students will be challenged.

“Hopefully the (work opportunities) would help students stay in school and be motivated. I just want to be sure that the rigor is part of it, and that we fulfill our responsibility in that area,” she said.


Laurel Smith, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0424 or lsmith@thegardenisland.com.

  1. Zchechuan November 24, 2021 7:38 pm Reply

    Is this numbers supposed to mean something? The that is wrong about the American system in government is that they are given a task to direct the public to a government that is run by agencies that control a person education and monitor it also to exact measurements, whereby measuring a person’s progress or intelligence. Free education. But tax payer’s money.

    The election results is an example of the American system failing. You’ve got at most 33% of the population voting, maybe more percentage higher and that’s it. The rest of the population do not care about your educational approach to government. Of the 33% that did vote, they some how put irritating and useless people in office. Like mayor, or governor, or state representatives. Only a small people voted for Kai Kahele or Ed Case. I don’t see how these representatives is a big impact to the greater population. The few and the elites rise above the system and are the richer ones in America. They control the system and the money supply. What they say, goes. This accounts for only 1 or 2 % of American population who are rich. I don’t know who Rick Caruso is. But he is California’s multi-billionaire who owns several shopping malls there. Those are the big players that Kai Kahele and Ed Case needs to know, to be able to make any impact on local government. Money wise. Otherwise, these two men are useless and stuck like everyone else beneath them.

    I cannot validate these numbers to be important part of life. Because they bring in no income for a average worker or person studying the labor force. I would not consider the election because they pose no threat to hitting the billionaire mark. One man’s opinion about government and education.

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