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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 30, 2006

No Child report shows state schools far behind

Advertiser Staff and News Reports

Fewer Hawai'i public schools met the requirements of the No Child Left Behind law last year than those in any state but one, according to preliminary numbers reported to the U.S. Department of Education.

Thirty-four percent of Hawai'i schools made "adequate yearly progress" in improving student test scores in math and reading in the 2004-05 school year.

The only state that Hawai'i is ranked ahead of is Florida, where 28 percent of schools achieved adequate yearly progress. Nationwide, 73 percent of U.S. schools made the grade.

Hawai'i school officials contend that comparisons with other states may be misleading because each state's test is different. Hawai'i's state test has been rated as one of the most difficult in the country.

"We're still holding schools accountable. We have high expectations for the schools as well as for the kids. Dumbing down the standards won't do anybody any good," said Robert McClelland, planning and evaluation director for the Hawai'i Department of Education.

Schools can be sanctioned if they don't make "adequate yearly progress" two years in a row, with administrators and teachers eventually being replaced.

Hawai'i education officials have said that nearly 70 percent of the state's schools would have reached their goals if yearly progress standards hadn't risen.

Instead, Hawai'i dropped 19 percentage points from 2004's 53 percent.

DOE spokesman Greg Knudsen also took issue with the characterization that the schools were failing to improve.

The problem is that the thresholds for meeting "adequate yearly progress" increased so much last year that schools could show dramatic improvement and still not meet the goals.

"If you look at the individual schools and their progress, you'll find that most of them, indeed, are improving," Knudsen said.

States are given flexibility in designing tests, and many have made it easier to meet federal requirements.

"These stats are meaningless in the absence of a common test and common standards," said Diane Ravitch, a research professor at New York University.

Schools receiving federal poverty aid can be sanctioned for not making "adequate yearly progress" two years in a row, with administrators and teachers eventually being replaced.

To meet goals, schools must show overall improvement, plus gains by minority students, poor students, students with limited English skills and students with disabilities.

States are required to get increasing percentages of students proficient in math and reading, with all students being proficient by 2013-14.