Have an idea for how to improve public education in Hawaii?

The Department of Education is asking for public input as it undergoes a review of its multi-year strategic plan — a document that lays out goals for public education in Hawaii.

So far more than 700 people have completed the DOE-supported online survey, which is being conducted by the nonprofit Hope Street Group. Others are submitting posts weighing in on everything from classroom conditions to early childhood education and class sizes.

The strategic plan review coincides with state and national changes that could have a real impact on local classrooms.

Late last year federal lawmakers voted to replace the much-loathed No Child Left Behind Act with a new law, dubbed the Every Student Succeeds Act, aimed at giving more autonomy and flexibility back to state and local school districts.

With the prospect of federal requirements loosening a bit, Gov. David Ige created an ESSA team last month to examine the law and “develop a blueprint for Hawaii’s public schools.”

Waikele Elementary school kids raising hands1. 19 april 2016.
The Department of Education is in the midst of reevaluating its strategic plan for public education. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Heading the governor’s team is Darrel Galera, a retired public school principal and executive director of the Education Institute of Hawaii, an education think-tank focused on school empowerment.

Galera helped organize a group of educators in 2014 calling for a change of leadership and organizational overhaul of the Department of Education.

In what Hawaii News Now pointed out was a rather “high profile snub,” Ige did not appoint DOE Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi to the task force.

The biggest change in Hawaii so far under the new federal law has been in teacher evaluations. The Board of Education decided last week that it would no longer require student test scores be used to measure teacher effectiveness.

The evaluation system has been a big source of contention among teachers. So much so that current HSTA leadership campaigned, at least in part, on getting rid of the EES altogether.

The deadline for members of the public to submit comments through the DOE survey is May 31.

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