Hawaii’s State Board of Education is zeroing in on targets for its new strategic plan, which includes massive gains in reading and math proficiency for Hawaii public school students and alternative ways to measure student success. 

In a meeting Thursday, the board discussed outcomes for the blueprint, which will guide public education in the state for the next 5-6 years, impacting nearly 300 schools and more than 176,000 kids. 

The draft includes a target that all students be proficient in reading by the end of third grade, and proficient in math by the end of eighth grade. Last year, 80% of third graders were proficient in reading — meaning they read near or above grade level — according to Hawaii’s annual Smarter Balanced assessments. 

Only 22% of eighth graders in Hawaii were proficient in math last year, according to The Nation’s Report Card testing, which is considered to be more rigorous than the Smarter Balanced assessments.

BOE Member Lauren Moriarty discusses community input for the board’s new strategic plan at a meeting at Ewa Makai Middle School. Viola Gaskell/Civil Beat/2022

HEʻE Coalition Director, Cheri Nakamura, echoed concerns over a lack of basic academic skills, including that Hawaii public school graduates are often underprepared for college, career, and citizenship — the overarching goal of the previous HIDOE Strategic Plan. 

In her written testimony Nakamura said she and fellow education advocates have heard about engineering students who are unable to handle college-level math, graduates who want to start a carpenter’s apprenticeship program but lack the math skills, and others without the foundation to pass the military ASVAB exam.

Separately, board member Lauren Moriarty also highlighted a need to “develop different ways to measure levels of growth and achievement” in schools that value skill sets that are not strictly academic, from aina-based learning to acquiring trade or creative industry skills. 

BOE Chair Bruce Voss said he thought that the importance of narrowing achievement gaps between high needs groups, specifically English learners and Pacific Islander students, needed to be reflected in the plan’s goals. 

“As important as third grade literacy is — I think the top priority is to reach those students. If we don’t make those students a top priority they get lost,” Voss said. 

The BOE plans to release a full draft of the plan on Dec. 15, followed by a survey Dec. 19, that will give stakeholders the opportunity to weigh in on its contents until Jan. 13. 


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