Cost of help for Hawai'i schools rises
By Beverly Creamer
Advertiser Education Writer
By Beverly Creamer
The cost of providing outside help to dozens of struggling Hawai'i public schools is on the rise.
A total of $7.9 million was spent last year to help 24 schools that have consistently fallen short of state goals. Now, with more than twice as many schools — 50 — needing that level of intervention, the Department of Education expects to award new contracts in the coming year to more private education companies.
That's on top of contracts being renewed with three private firms that last year helped 20 of 24 schools placed under "restructuring," or state takeover — the most severe penalty under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
The total cost increase won't be known until contracts are complete, said Kathy Kawaguchi, assistant superintendent for the DOE's Office of Curriculum, Instruction and Student Support.
Help for the schools is "going to cost," said state schools superintendent Pat Hamamoto. "If we want our kids to do well, then we have to take care of them."
Preliminary results from this year's Hawai'i State Assessment, released last week, showed essentially no improvement in the percentage of schools — 34 percent or 95 of 282 schools — meeting state goals.
But they did show that four of seven schools that one of the private companies worked with reached that goal.
Under Edison Schools Inc., for the first time Palolo Elementary, 'Aiea Elementary and Pa'ia Elementary on Maui hit the goals, or made "adequate yearly progress." A fourth, Jarrett Middle School, made adequate progress for the second year in a row to emerge from restructuring.
The other two companies — ETS Pulliam and America's Choice — were contracted to help 13 other schools, but none of those schools achieved adequate progress this year, according to department officials.
But meeting the adequate yearly progress standard was not a stipulation for any of the companies; the only expectation in the first year was that student test scores would improve. And it's too early to know whether they succeeded there, because school by school scores have not yet been released.
America's Choice did not return an Advertiser call, and a Pulliam representative said the company could not comment because it did not yet have all the scores.
Edison's $3.9 million contract will increase next year as the company will work with five more schools, bringing its total to 12. Last year the department allocated about $400,000 per school for restructuring, but Edison said its costs this year would be about 15 percent less than last year.
ETS Pulliam and America's Choice each had $2 million contracts with the DOE last year.
Gerald Teramae, principal of Jarrett Middle School, credited Edison with being the component that pushed Jarrett over the hump and helped the school see significant gains in reading and math.
After making adequate pro-gress on its own last year, Jarrett's staff was able to keep the momentum going with Edison's help.
"Edison was an outside entity encouraging us, working with us, supporting us," Teramae said. "It was a tremendous asset to have this year."
Although Jarrett is now in good standing, the school will continue to work with Edison for another year, pioneering how providers will work with schools that successfully made it through restructuring.
Rather than comprehensive support with program and leadership, Teramae expects the assistance to focus on areas that need to be solidified.
"We don't want to fall back into restructuring," he said.
Teramae advised schools that are moving into restructuring to be open-minded, willing to adapt their practices and accept that the teaching profession is changing.
"It might be against our traditional beliefs of how teaching should be, but unless you change, you get the same results," he said.
Those kinds of changes are what the DOE plans for the coming year. Hamamoto said the DOE will offer a menu of services that schools can choose from according to their needs and weaknesses.
They'll be guided by their complex area superintendents, who will work with each restructuring school within their areas to pinpoint how to make changes.
"We're responsible to make sure that what is purchased is delivered and achieved," said Ronn Nozoe, complex area superintendent for the 19 schools in the Farrington-Kaiser complex, many of which saw important gains in scores this year although not all achieved the adequate yearly progress standard.
"If I contract with a certain entity to provide a service, you bet I'll be monitoring it."
But not all of the help will come from outside companies.
Nozoe said he will be using strengths from within, including a team of teachers that was trained by the University of Santa Cruz's New Teacher Center in how to mentor young teachers.
"The Farrington complex alone has 120 untenured teachers a year," he said. "We're going to be looking at mentoring these people to support all of them."
Along with coaching new teachers, his team will provide specialized coaching for math teachers throughout the complex area, as well as special education and English as a Second Language teachers.
"Ultimately we'd like all professional development done with this very personal mentoring," Nozoe said. "We really believe that's where our investment should be."
In relation to this year's test scores, Hamamoto said one concern was the number of inexperienced teachers in Hawai'i schools. Over the past five years, she said, about 40 percent of the teaching force has been new teachers.
"But we expect their instruction to be comparable to those who have been in teaching for many years," she said.
At schools in restructuring, Edison provides a multi-pronged approach that includes defining a strong vision for the school and a plan to go with it.
"Our founder likes to say it's not one or two things that make the schools great, it's many things working together," said John Kreick, general manager of Hawai'i Edison Alliance. "One of the things we brought to the table were the monthly benchmark assessments on reading and math so that on a monthly basis teachers know exactly where their kids are and can put their efforts there."
Edison also worked extensively on building leadership. "With strong leadership, nine out of 10 schools will be performing well," Kreick said.
"The principal at Dole (Myron Monte) is a prime example in getting his staff behind him and empowering them to believe that change can happen," Kreick said. "They've actually seen a culture change at that school. They're setting clear expectations for the teachers and high expectations for the students. They believe the students can achieve and excel and every teacher is 'owning' student achievement."
Nozoe, the complex area superintendent, had additional praise, especially for the way Dole Middle School has increased family involvement.
"It's become a place where parents really want to come and get involved," Nozoe said.
The partnerships with parents and community are crucial, agreed Palolo Elementary principal Ruth Silberstein.
Along with the hard work of staff, teachers, coordinators and even custodians, the school's success is the result of broad community involvement, Silberstein said.
That includes the efforts of all those involved in the Palolo Pipeline project, which brought as many as 50 college students from Kapi'olani Community College, the University of Hawai'i and Chaminade University of Honolulu onto campus every day to tutor children after school.
As well, the East Honolulu and Honolulu Rotary clubs have built benches, bookshelves, donated school supplies and bought playground equipment.
Local businesses provided a new computer server, and community churches donated things such as drums so the school can start an orchestra.
Family members volunteered to teach the students Micronesian dances so the school could participate in Chaminade's 50th anniversary as well as Kaimuki Day. And schools in the area, including Jarrett, 'Anuenue and Palolo, are coming together to write grants to bring in new federal resources for all the schools.
"You talk about a village that supports a school," Silberstein said. "We could not have done it without everyone's help."Staff writer Treena Shapiro contributed to this report. Reach Beverly Creamer at bcreamer @honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8013.
Reach Beverly Creamer at email@example.com.