Hawaii’s elementary schools have significantly improved their attendance rates, according to the most recent results of Strive HI, the state Department of Education’s system for measuring student performance and growth.

Schools across the board have also made strides in science proficiency.

But math and reading scores are down from last year, while college-readiness, graduation and college-going rates have remained steady.

McKinley High School journalism teacher Cindy Reves empty classroom

McKinley High School journalism teacher Cindy Reves prepares for her class, April 2014.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

Strive HI is the state’s new accountability system for grading schools and replaces the federal No Child Left Behind program. The DOE touts its focus on customized measurements of success and student growth rather than static test scores. The new results reflect the performance of students during the 2013-14 school year, and many of the measurements compare these findings with those from the 2012-13 school year.

The reduction in chronic absenteeism — the rate of students missing 15 or more days of school — is one of the most encouraging findings. Chronic absenteeism is a significant predictor of student success, as Civil Beat has reported in the past. The DOE only measures chronic absenteeism among elementary schools.

The percentage of students absent 15 days or more in the 2013-14 school year dropped to 11 percent from 18 percent a year ago. That’s the equivalent of more than 5,500 students statewide.

“During a year of tremendous change in our public schools, it is clear that our students and staff continue to answer the call to strive higher at every level,” Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi said in a statement. “The data shows some clear bright spots, as well as some things we need to continue to work on. I want to thank our principals, teachers, staff, and students for all of the efforts put forward to raise awareness about the importance of attendance. It’s not just about showing up for class, it’s about laying the educational foundation for student success.”

Meanwhile, science proficiency increased to 40 percent this past year, up from 34 percent the previous year. Science, according to the DOE, is “seeing renewed enthusiasm and focus under Strive HI.” No Child Left Behind didn’t place a significant emphasis on science.

Reading proficiency, however, dropped to 69 percent from 72 percent, while math proficiency decreased from 60 percent to 59 percent.

The DOE says the lower proficiency rates were expected and attributes the drops to the new Common Core standards and the assessments tied to those new reading and math learning benchmarks.

“Hawaii’s new state assessment will create a new proficiency baseline — students are not doing worse in reading and math, they’re taking a different exam,” a DOE press release says. “Parents and the community should look to a school’s student growth performance for a more reliable metric during this transition — seeing how a school’s students are advancing relative to their peers across the state.”

Other findings:

  • The graduation rate for the Class of 2013 remained at 82 percent and college-going rates for students who graduated in the Class of 2012 remain at 63 percent.
  • The percentage of students reaching a 19 or above on ACT remains steady at 34 percent, while the number of students meeting ACT’s College Readiness Benchmarks edged up from to 9 percent from 7 percent. Based on local research, a composite score of 19 on the ACT exam indicates readiness for entry-level courses in the University of Hawaii System.
  • The percentage of students requiring remedial classes in college English remained steady at 31 percent, while math remediation dropped to 32 percent from 36 percent.

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