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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 4, 2006

State gets D+ for technology

By Beverly Creamer
Advertiser Education Writer

In the realm of technology, Hawai'i's public education system fares poorly compared to other states, according to a report released today by a national research center dedicated to improving education.

Hawai'i receives an overall grade of D+, a full grade below the national average of C+, according to "Technology Counts 2006 The Information Edge," compiled by Education Week and the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center.

While Hawai'i's public-school classrooms provide one computer for every 4.9 students compared to the national average of one computer for every 3.8 students the report concludes that the state fails to adequately test students for their knowledge of technology. It also found that the state fails to demand adequate teacher training in technology.

"A lot of states see value in providing guidelines for educators about how well they should understand technology," said Christopher Swanson, director of Education Week's research center. "Hawai'i could very well benefit from these strategies."

The report pointed out, though, that many states are struggling with technology issues. And Swanson said because of the Hawai'i's centralized education system, it's possible for them to move quickly on many of these fronts.

In response to the report, state Department of Education spokes-man Greg Knudsen said an extensive amount of data is available to schools and the public on Web sites, such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress site, and a new site called Just for the Kids Hawai'i.

"We're far from being a fully integrated system and that's something we want to improve," Knudsen said. "It's evident from the national survey that while we're making progress, others are too ... perhaps at a greater pace."

Sharon Mahoe, executive director of the Hawai'i Teacher Standards Board, said technology is built into Hawai'i's teacher performance standards and teaching training programs.

"For teachers to be certified, they have to complete a preparation program that requires the application of technology to teaching," she said. "So we don't just look at credits or how many weeks of instruction teachers have had." In addition, Mahoe said, teachers are assessed on ability to use technology in instruction.

Mahoe said she has been frustrated with Education Week's survey methods, which she finds narrow in scope of questioning and evaluation.

"Some of the difficulty we've had in the past with Education Week is sometimes if things aren't specifically spelled out, the state gets dinged. It's as though we're not doing anything and that's not true at all."

In looking at the way individual states are using technology to improve student learning, the report lauds Hawai'i for having a student information system that designates a unique ID number to every student in the system. But it said the system could add information to the ID numbers to better track student progress.

"Hawai'i is able to attach a fair amount of information," Swanson said. For instance, he said, "We were able to document the way assessment results were attached, and that looks pretty good."

Teachers also have a unique ID number in the Hawai'i educational data system, but less information can be attached to it, Swanson said.

"They know the demographic background and can attach that to the ID number and track that over time," he said. "But it's lacking the ability to merge in other types of information, such as more detailed backgrounds ... years of experience, salary information and their major in college."

The report also noted that Hawai'i lacks the ability to match teacher ID with student IDs to thereby tally which students have been taught by a teacher. That type of listing could be used to track teacher effectiveness, among other things.

"Only nine states can do that and Hawai'i is not one," Swanson said.

Hawai'i also lagged behind in the report's scrutiny of ability to put information about student progress into the hands of educators to more effectively match educational tools with need. But Knudsen said every school has access to every student's test scores and they can be "sliced and diced in any way you choose." He added, "We would be able to pull up test results and see how a student does on every single question."

Reach Beverly Creamer at bcreamer@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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