Sunday, July 28, 2002




A kindergartener listens attentively during story time.





Will Hawaii leave
no child behind?


Hawaii has 85 failing public schools. The new No Child Left Behind Act lays down the law -- either they get better or else. Meanwhile, some students in failing schools can choose a better one right away. The Price of Paradise looks at how it works, who qualifies, who pays and who won't get left behind.






Hawaii Schools Superintendent Pat Hamamoto presented Waiakea Intermediate student Mari Takemoto-Chock with a top award in April during the state science fair. The No Child Left Behind Act is meant to ensure that all students meet new standards.





Public schools are
preparing to meet
the challenge of
new federal law

By Patricia Hamamoto


PRESIDENT George Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act last Jan. 8. It reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, which has guided efforts to improve education for all students, particularly disadvantaged students from high-poverty communities.

For the last 40 years, improving educational achievement has been elusive. In fashioning this legislation, Congress and the president had these guiding principles: accountability for student performance, focusing on what works, reducing bureaucracy, increasing flexibility and empowering parents.

NCLB requires annual testing in reading and mathematics of all public school students in grades 3, 8 and high school by the 2005-2006 school year, annual report cards on school performance, every child being able to read by the third grade and a highly qualified teacher for every classroom.

Its goal is that all students become 100 percent proficient in 12 years. Anything less means children will be left behind.

The NCLB act requires states to provide separate, measurable objectives for all students and for specific groups, such as disadvantaged students receiving free or reduced-price lunches, ethnic minorities, special education students and those with limited English proficiency.

Hawaii is developing a statewide accountability system for all schools to determine adequate yearly progress, or AYP, based primarily on a statewide, standards-based assessment in reading and math.

Beginning in the 2002-2003 school year, the state will provide school report cards to inform parents, voters and taxpayers how each is progressing toward our goal of 100 percent proficiency.

Schools that fail to make progress will get extra help. Our Department of Education has designed a support system, a "critical ally team" led by the complex area superintendent. This team will include stakeholders and experts to help the school focus on what works and make the changes necessary to meet standards.

There will be consequences for schools that don't perform.


>> Students in schools that do not make AYP for two consecutive years will have the option of transferring to another school that does. The lowest- achieving students from low-income families will have priority.

>> If a school fails to make AYP for a third year, parents and students may opt for supplemental education services, or tutoring at home.

>> After receiving extra help, schools that fail to make AYP for a fourth year may be reformed. For example, a new curriculum may be mandated.

>> After five consecutive years of failure, the state may restructure or reconstitute the school.

Hawaii began preparations for NCLB soon after it passed. The DOE plans standards-based exams that meet NCLB requirements, beginning with the new Hawaii Content and Performance Standards II test that grades 3, 5, 8 and l0 took last April.


DOE also plans to develop, field test and fully implement reading and mathematics assessments in grades 4, 6 and 7 by the 2005-2006 school year. NCLB also requires science exams for at least one grade within three grade spans (3-5, 6-8 and 9-12) and we plan to meet this requirement by the 2007-2008 school year.

School choice and supplemental education services have made the news lately. We plan to make both available to parents and students in the coming school year. To accommodate additional transportation and supplemental education costs, we will set aside 20 percent of federal Title I funds.

The DOE is working on preliminary guidelines and criteria, ranking students from highest to lowest in academic needs and income status. The U.S. Department of Education must approve these guidelines, but they should go out to schools for use in the coming school year.

We're also working on guidelines and criteria for transportation for school choice and supplemental education services, which schools and parents should get this year, too. These will identify which students qualify and how and where services will be provided.

We've also written a prospectus describing requirements for tutorial assistance for interested service providers whom we'll ask to provide written proposals. Parents will be able to request services from a list of approved providers that will be reviewed and updated annually.

Last, we're developing guidelines to help schools communicate with parents.

We submitted Hawaii's Consolidated State Application for No Child Left Behind describing how we plan to meet its requirements last June 12. The U.S. Department of Education notified us on July 3 that Hawaii's plan was fully approved.

The plan is available on the DOE Web site, www.k12.hi.us/-~challeng/nclb/. We will receive all federal funds allotted to Hawaii through NCLB.

The challenge to meet the intent and purpose of the law is awesome. We will meet the challenge. No child will be left behind.



Patricia Hamamoto, superintendent of the Hawaii Department of Education since last December, is a graduate of Maryknoll High School and Cal State Long Beach and a former principal of McKinley High School.





As a Connections program teacher in 1998, John Thatcher taught students at Mountain View Elementary on the Big Island.





Charter schools are
trying -- with resistance
-- to do their part

By John Thatcher


THE RHETORIC from our state Department of Education has started. Cries of "We didn't know!" and, "It's not fair because we didn't test our students last year" will fall on deaf ears.

President Bush's No Child Left Behind law went into effect six months ago. Educational bureaucrats knew what was coming. Hawaii submitted a Consolidated State Application plan for NCLB on June 12, but with a head-in-the-sand position, reaction comes only after a bite in the okole.

The guidelines are clear and fair. They offer hope to a huge number of families that, through years of declining test scores and a deteriorating public educational institution, could hope for little.

Charter schools can play a vital role. They provide an option to vouchers by allowing parents to choose a high-quality alternative to the traditional public school education for their children. Before this can happen, however, the climate of mistrust between the charter school community and the Board of Education and DOE must change.


THE BOE Charter Schools Committee seems bent on shutting down the charter schools in our state. The chairman of this committee has poisoned opportunities for significant progress by saber rattling for a political agenda. The superintendent is trying to work with charter schools, but her efforts are seriously impaired by the rhetoric.

Charter schools are public schools. They should be held accountable to the same criteria used to evaluate all public schools. They should not be burdened, however, with increased bureaucratic rules and regulations.

They were created by our state Legislature to "be free from statutory and regulatory requirements that tend to inhibit or restrict a school's ability to make decisions ... " That's what legislators intended when they created charter schools in Hawaii in 1999, and it is a guiding principle underlying the success of charter schools nationally.

As agents of reform, charter schools can bring desperately needed money into our state to help build new schools and pay for student transportation. NCLB authorizes a new federal program to assist charter schools with their facilities costs.

The federal government will provide matching funds for five years to states that provide money for buildings to their charter schools. Grants are also available for innovative credit enhancement initiatives to help charter schools with the cost of acquiring, constructing and renovating facilities.

THE NCLB act authorizes grants for up to five years of funding to establish or expand programs to give students and parents greater public school choice. This gives the state of Hawaii an opportunity to provide students with transportation to a charter school or to pay their transportation costs.

Because the Hawaii state Constitution does not allow public money be used to fund a voucher program, charter schools are the only avenue our state can take to qualify for these federal dollars. NCLB requires our state to provide choice or risk losing existing federal funding.

NCLB also provides us an opportunity to deal with one of Hawaii's most troubling issues: school size. Schools here are some of the largest in the nation. More than 30 years of research have documented the negative impact of school size on student learning.

The BOE has recognized this problem for many years but has struggled to implement its own administrative policy. NCLB supports local efforts to create smaller learning communities within large schools by providing funding for research, professional development and community involvement.

Further information about No Child Left Behind is available on the Internet at nclb.gov. This bold new law can provide a path for restructuring education in America and making the dreams of all the children in every school a reality.


John Thatcher is president of the Hawaii Association of Charter Schools and an administrator at Connections Public Charter School in Hilo.