The Maui News - Although its students achieved high reading, math and science proficiency scores, Kihei Charter School's low, 51 percent on-time graduation rate dropped it to the bottom 5 percent of schools statewide under the public schools' new Strive HI Performance System.
Kihei Charter's Strive report card shows that it was automatically classified as a "priority" school in need of "very high" levels of state intervention and involvement. Thirteen public schools were also classified as "priority" schools on other islands.
State Department of Education spokesman Alex Da Silva said that any school with a high school graduation rate of less than 70 percent over three consecutive years is classified as a priority school.
Although Da Silva said Kihei Charter did well in its academic measures, the Strive system aims for schools to identify strengths and weaknesses and to make improvements where needed.
The Strive system replaces the federal education reform's "No Child Left Behind" system in which schools were rated on whether students met escalating, annual reading and math benchmarks, known as "adequate yearly progress."
Out of a possible high score of 400 points, Kihei Charter School scored 235 points; 91 percent reading proficiency; 68 percent math proficiency; 63 percent science proficiency; and a 51 percent graduation rate.
George Winterscheid, the new executive director of Kihei Public Charter School, acknowledged the school's low on-time graduation rate, but he said it was because the school has a commitment to academic excellence.
Of the school's graduating class of 2012, which was the year reviewed for graduation rates, there were more than 70 students who started at the school in ninth grade, he said, and only 36 graduated on time.
Winterscheid said that he had reviewed the Strive report cards of half the public schools in the state, and "I have not found another high school that has the level of proficiency scores that we do, he said.
Kihei Charter has the highest rate on Maui of sending students to the "Running Start" program at the University of Hawai'i Maui College, Winterscheid said. That program allows high school juniors and seniors to begin taking college-level classes at the campus in Kahului.
Kihei Charter students are prepared for college, and more than 80 percent of them enroll in universities and colleges, he said.
"We want the graduation rate to go up," Winterscheid added.