Boy, Are We Reformed!

Are you suffering from “reform fatigue?” This is the decade of education reform. Plans, plans, plans. Let’s take a few minutes to look at the educational reform plans floating around.

In December 2015, the Board of Education approved the update to the Strategic Plan of 2012-2018. This up-date was a response to the ESSA Act which replaced the No Child Left Behind Act. This plan created “Success Indicators” rather than almost total reliance on standardized testing. Some of those indicators were the number of students receiving special education services, rate of absenteeism, number classrooms lacking teachers. The sign of relief could be heard in every corner of the state. The plan also considered other subjects other than mathematics and reading also important. It shifted the control of student achievement from the federal government to the state government.

Then there is ESSA. This was the reauthorization of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act which returned education control to the states. It doesn’t eliminate testing altogether because it still requires testing in mathematics and reading from third grade through high school. It requires more attention to under preforming subgroups of students. It also allowed the State to keep the $75 million grant under Race to the Top. It also let Hawaii keep the Common Core curriculum.

In 2016, the Governor created an independent task force composed of teachers, administrators, parents and other community education advocation. The 19- member task force held dozens of public meetings and heard from several thousand of educators, parents and community members on all islands. The result of the work of the task force was The Hawaii Blueprint for Public Education.

The Hawaii Blueprint for Public Education is in response to ESSA and it emphasis is on pre-school and professional development. It recommends alternatives to Hawaii’s “Smarter Balanced Assessments” such as portfolio assessment and “authentic assessments” which rely on research, creativity, analytical skill and writing. The Blueprint also recognizes charter schools and their ability to innovate. It is interesting to note that Waialae Elementary became a charter school when the Department of Education refused to exempt them from the standardize testing system so Waialae could use portfolios instead.

In comes a new superintendent and a new plan. Superintendent Kishimoto’s 2030 Promise Plan. This 10 year plan also had educators and community input in its development. The Superintendent has identified her three major strategies: 1) School Design, 2) Teacher Collaboration, 3) Student Voice.

In addition the 2030 Promise Plan makes five promises to students:

  • Hawai’i: Students will be educated within a public school system that is grounded in hā that powers a multilingual society, and honors Hawaii’s’ local and global contribution

  • Equity: Students will experience strong relationships and supports that mitigate disempowering differences to enable them to thrive academically, socially, and civically;

  • School Design: Students will be immersed in excellent learning environments that are thoughtfully designed around a community’s power to contribute to a thriving sustainable Hawai’i.

  • Empowerment: Students will develop their authentic voice as contributors to equity, excellence and innovation, by providing input on what they learn, how they learn and where they learn;

  • Innovation: Students will engage in rigorous, technology-rich, problem-solving learning that enables them to solve authentic community challenges and develop pathway to goals.

The community will be asked to give their feedback on the promises and what are their ideas of what it will take to fulfill the promises by 2030. The Superintendent admits that she does not have the money to implement the 2030 Promise Plan.

Some in the educational community are asking why new plans are being developed when older plans have not been implemented. Good question. And with a new superintendent will there be a new plan?

By Joan Lee Husted, HEA Board Member

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