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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, May 21, 2006

Schools get $2M to assess students

By Treena Shapiro
Advertiser Government Writer

The state Legislature has given public schools more than $2 million to help students meet required academic standards.

Early in the session, lawmakers considered requiring a "core curriculum" statewide but decided in the end to allow schools to proceed with plans to implement the standards-based curriculums most already had been working on.

Proponents of a core curriculum that would make grade-level instruction consistent from school to school were disappointed the Legislature moved in a different direction.

Sen. Norman Sakamoto, chairman of the Education Committee, explained that rather than order a tailor-made curriculum as supported by the Hawai'i Automobile Dealers Association, lawmakers instead wanted to do something that would have immediate results and used Senate Bill 3059 to create a three-pronged approach.

For about $2 million, the state Department of Education will be able to purchase assessment software, align curriculums throughout school complexes and begin testing to track students from preschool through college.

The assessment software "would really help the teachers in their classrooms now," Sakamoto said.

The software includes tests that will allow teachers to see not only individual student problems, but also where groups of students could use extra help, going so far as to recommend which textbook pages to review and which supplemental materials might be helpful.

In addition, the bill would help standardize instruction within each school complex, including high schools and the elementary and intermediate schools that feed into them. "We're trying to give resources to the school complex to work from where they are," Sakamoto said.

The goal is to sequence material so that it better aligns with the grade-level standards students are tested on in the spring, and to make sure teachers in the same grade level are following the same curriculum.

A good model could be adopted statewide.

The third part of the bill would allow for tracking of individual students as they move from preschool through college, to determine whether the state educational system is succeeding and where it needs to improve.

Reach Treena Shapiro at tshapiro@honoluluadvertiser.com.