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Feds keep Hawaii school reform grant on 'high-risk' status

By Mary Vorsino

LAST UPDATED: 4:33 p.m. HST, May 4, 2012

Race to the Top letter

The state's $75 million Race to the Top grant will remain on "high-risk" status for at least five more months, the U.S. Department of Education told the governor today.

The U.S. DOE noted that while Hawaii has taken steps "in the right direction to address a number of concerns," more time is needed to determine whether Hawaii can make good on its ambitious education reform pledges.

"Due to the preliminary nature of most of these activities and the lack of necessary sustaining conditions for reform, the department has determined that Hawaii has not yet demonstrated that it has made the substantial progress across its Race to the Top plan necessary to remove high-risk status," said Ann Whalen, U.S. DOE director of policy and program implementation, in a letter to the governor today.

Whalen did say that to recognize the progress Hawaii has made, the U.S. DOE will allow the state to again spend money from the federal grant, rather than using state money and seeking reimbursement later.

Hawaii leaders say significant progress on Race to the Top efforts has been made since December, when the grant was placed on high-risk status because of the slow pace of reforms.

A federal team visited the state in March to conduct a review of Hawaii's Race efforts. Hawaii is the only Race state whose grant has been deemed high risk.

Schools Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi said the U.S. DOE "acknowledged Hawaii has taken steps in the right direction."

"We will continue to move forward on all of our deliverables," she said, in a news release. "A transformational change is taking place in Hawaii's public schools. This change is focused on creating a better learning environment to boost student achievement."

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