Hawaii Requests No Child Leniency

Attiana Collins, Editor-In-Chief

No Child Left Behind (NCLB), introduced in 2001 with the Bush Administration, created a goal in which all students would be proficient in math and reading by 2014. Now, states are requesting waivers as to how they would be rated under NCLB.

“NCLB 2014 has always been an unrealistic goal,” social studies teacher Mrs. Rebecca Johnson said. “Among many factors that were not taken into account while constructing this law was that children have different skills and gifts. The parental role model as an avid reader and communicator of the morays of society are essential and long term. The school, at any level, cannot be the substitute for any of the above. Hence, flexibility is necessary to attain some benchmarks that are common to that state.”

Over the last decade, states across the country have voiced the need for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). ESEA is the federal statue governing public education across the country. The flexibility would provide states an alternative to the current No Child Left Behind (NCLB) “one-size-fits-all” approach. Academic success, as of now under NCLB, is being rated on schools’ test scores.

“ESEA Flexibility Request allows the state to request flexibility through waivers of ten specified ESEA requirements, as identified by the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE),” Hawaii’s Department of Education (DOE) Communications Director Sandra Goya said. “It would also give them the responsibility to use things other than test scores to define academic success beyond Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).”

Other factors to take into account, Mrs. Johnson said, are the differences in English speakers, poverty levels, and funding in different states.

“Some states have factors to consider that other states do not. Our state, for instance, has more non-English speakers, more poverty, less funding for infrastructural and core enrichment programs, smaller teacher pool from which to draw the brightest and the best, etc,” Ms. Johnson said. “States should take their unique factors under consideration and create a long term projected reading and math program based on the needs of that population.”

This year, 59 percent of Hawaii’s 286 schools failed in meeting NCLB benchmarks for reading and math proficiency, up from 49 percent last year.  For Hawaii schools to meet AYP this year, 72 percent of students had to test proficient in reading and 64 percent in math. Also, each school has sub-groups within it that are required to pass AYP.

“All sub-groups that are applicable to our school must pass in order for our school to make AYP,” Dr. Elias Ali, principal, said. “The overall passing rate does not determine AYP. For example, English Language Learners (ELL) is a sub-group for our school. Each school has different required sub-groups because each school may not have enough of those to make a sub-group.”

The waiver application requires states to affirm what alternate system it would use to rate schools. DOE will be engaging and soliciting input from diverse stakeholders and communities in development of its request. According to Goya, Hawaii’s plans will be built upon its Race to the Top reforms and a design that “improves educational outcomes” for all students.

“The plan will close achievement gaps, increases equity, and improve the quality of instruction,” Goya said. “It will be based on and support the critical areas such as transitioning to college- and career-ready standards and assessments; developing systems of differentiated recognition, accountability, and support; and evaluating and supporting teacher and principal effectiveness.

Hawaii, being one of the 44 states and the District of Columbia, has taken on a common set of state-developed college- and career-ready standards, known as the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

“The CCSS is part of the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium, a multi-state consortium that is developing a high-quality assessment aligned with these standards,” Goya said. “During the 2011-2012 school year, Hawaii’s public school students in kindergarten through the second grade will make the shift to CCSS, along with high school English language arts and Algebra II students. Other grades will follow by the 2014-2015 school year.”

The Common Core State Standards, Ms. Johnson said, should take into account the “diverse student population, state economy, Native Hawaiian population, and the ebb and flow of military students and families.”

“I believe in the Common Core State Standards, which should be followed from k-12 grades by all teachers,” Mrs. Johnson said. “The information that one learns in first grade should be built upon in second grade, etc.  For example in math, a student learns fractions which lay the building block for another curriculum layer at the next grade level.  Common Core State Standards demand that students cover certain content but leaves how the students understand and learn that content to the creativity of the teacher and the unique factors that students bring to the classroom. Common Core Standards should flow through the grade levels-each building on the latter with greater sophistication and complexity.”