Hawai'i's inaugural appointed Board of Education (BOE) has released its first-year "Report on Public Education," outlining a list of innovative action focused on improving Hawai'i student achievement, service support improvements and staff development.
Its nine members, including Maui's Wesley P. Lo, each serve the state on a volunteer basis. In addition, one student and one military representative serve as ex-officio members.
The first-year report clearly showed that this dedicated board came in a year ago with a clear mission to improve our public schools and have since not hesitated to make necessary changes.
On June 19, state Board of Education Chairman Don Horner presented the board’s first-year “Report on Public Education” to Gov. Neil Abercrombie.
Photo courtesy of the Office of the Governor
One of the most notable changes was the BOE's adoption of policies for teacher and principal evaluations that include student performance measurements and future changes to tenure, as well as improved professional support.
The BOE also reorganized its focus on student achievement and developed better communications with stakeholders, including the state Legislature and Executive Branch, parent groups, student organizations, the University of Hawai'i, the Teacher Standards Board and the military.
New online tools were deployed for teachers and administrators to track student progress, enabling better-informed instruction and school planning, aiding in the identification of students for interventions, and holding relevant parties accountable. And new graduation requirements were adopted to ensure that students are prepared for success after high school in their choice of college or careers. These new requirements are nationally and internationally competitive and will begin with the state's incoming ninth-graders.
This was indeed exciting progress. I was therefore pleased to complement the BOE's forward momentum by enacting several education-related measures passed by the 2012 Legislative Session.
These included Senate Bill 2115, which replaces the chapter governing charter schools based on the recommendations of the Charter School Governance, Accountability and Authority Task Force (established by Act 130, Session Laws of Hawai'i 2011). SB 2115 promotes high-quality charter schools by maintaining their autonomy to innovate while ensuring that schools are accountable for student learning and growth, as well as organizational viability and fiscal responsibility. It also changes the composition of the governing bodies for charter schools, both at the state level to approve charter schools and at the school level to manage the charter schools.
As Sen. Jill Tokuda, chair of the state Senate Education Committee, put it, SB 2115 is "a real game-changer in the way we govern our charter school system, with a clear balance between accountability and autonomy that will result in increased student achievement."
These tangible accomplishments in just one year are truly reflective of a "New Day" for education in Hawai'i. It is deeply encouraging to see the BOE and Legislature's commitment to improving our statewide education system result in real progress. I would dare say that it is progress worthy of an A-plus; the only caveat being that this is just the beginning, and there are more positive changes to come.