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Hawaii public school test scores above average

By Nanea Kalani

LAST UPDATED: 01:44 p.m. HST, Nov 07, 2013

Hawaii public school fourth-graders exceeded the national average for math on a national standardized test -- the first time Hawaii has surpassed its national peers in any subject on the National Assessment of Educational Progress since state results began being recorded in the 1990s.

Overall, Hawaii's fourth- and eighth-graders made gains in reading and math on the exam this year, compared to 2011, the last time the test was given. But eighth-grade math and fourth- and eighth-grade reading scores in the islands remained below the national averages.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan touted Hawaii, Tennessee and Washington, D.C., as top performers "who've knocked the ball out of the park."

The results -- released this morning -- come as Hawaii's public school system continues implementing a host of educational reforms aimed at improving student performance, turning around low-performing schools and boosting teacher effectiveness.

Duncan said a lot of people scoffed at the U.S. Education Department's investment in Hawaii through a $75 million Race to the Top grant that proposed sweeping education reforms.

"I think Hawaii, to their tremendous credit, has proved a lot of skeptics wrong,"he said on a conference call with reporters Wednesday.

About 6,300 fourth-graders and 5,500 eighth-graders statewide took the exam during a testing window from January through March. Nationwide, more than 376,000 fourth-graders and 341,000 eighth-graders took the test, also known as the "Nation's Report Card."

Hawaii fourth-graders scored an average 243 points out of a possible 500 in math -- two points higher than the national average. The score for the group was up from 239 points in 2011 and 236 points in 2009.

The NAEP results for Hawaii also showed:

>> Forty-six percent of fourth-graders scored at the "proficient" or "advanced" level in math, and 37 percent tested at the "basic" level. Seventeen percent were at the "below basic" level in math.

>> In reading, fourth-graders edged up slightly with an average score of 215 points, up one point from 2011. The national average for fourth-graders in reading this year was 221 points.

>> Eighth-graders scored an average of 260 points in reading, up three points from 2011. The group trailed the national average of 266 points.

>> In math, eighth-graders had an average score of 281 points, below the national average of 284, but up from 278 in 2011.

Nationally, scores edged up slightly from 2011 in math for fourth- and eighth-graders. Reading scores for eighth-graders improved by three points over 2011, while reading scores for fourth-graders stayed flat.

Duncan said the report "provides encouraging but modest signs of progress," adding that the nation isn't yet seeing transformational changes in education as states adopt more rigorous academic standards.

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false wrote:
We can make gains, but conflicts of philosophies about how to teach thinking is going to undo the DOE again. Some decision makers just don't have the understanding of the complexity of the classroom and the intelligence there. It isn't one size fits all. Never will be and we simply need more talent for some students to reach the maximum potential. The gap group is huge and getting larger. Disconnected students just lala the instructional time away and there's no one to reign them in. If only we could just hang them in a burlap bag on the fence for a time out, we might get more done. No more burlap bags for keawe bean picking. Now that would be a solution, picking keawe beans for 25 cents a bag. Teach them a lesson.
on November 7,2013 | 04:44AM
allie wrote:
The strong emphasis on pre-math and pre-literacy skills in preschool are critical to continued improvement. Some out here don't want low income children who need the most help to get public support as Hawaii prides itself on keeping the low income folks down and out. Please pass the Governor's proposal for universal pre-k. Many sates have already done so. Give every one of our keiki a chance!
on November 7,2013 | 05:09AM
palani wrote:
Well argued, but I disagree. What are "pre-math" and pre-literacy"? I learned to count to 100 in kindergarten, which is pre-first grade, with the emphasis on first. To the left, pre-school is code for daycare. Not much learning, but a lot of babysitting.
on November 7,2013 | 05:32AM
allie wrote:
you need to research this. The modern pre-k is what kindergarten was decades ago. Social and educational justice. Opportunity. Social cohesion. That is what I stand for.
on November 7,2013 | 07:13AM
islandmom wrote:
I completely disagree. Preschools are FIRST schools. The research is clear that children today who don't enter kindergarten with preschool experience are much more likely to fall behind and stay behind their peers. DOE schools today assess all incoming kindergarteners even before the school year starts -- and those kindergarten teachers would surely like to see all of those students already being able to count to 100.
on November 7,2013 | 09:03AM
palani wrote:
No, the research suggests that any benefits gained from pre-school are short-lived.

The Very Short-Lived Benefits of Universal Preschool

on November 7,2013 | 09:34AM
sjean wrote:
That explains why so many christian preschoolers become atheists later in life.
on November 7,2013 | 10:18AM
ballen0607 wrote:
Please don't used bias Koch-funded sources. The Reason Foundation was also funded by Phillip Morris and defended tobacco use in 1993. Ugh...
on November 7,2013 | 11:15AM
palani wrote:
Better to swallow whole the George Soros funded Media Matters propaganda machine's daily dispatches to the mainstream media? The Reason Foundation is a libertarian think tank.
on November 7,2013 | 01:20PM
PokeStop wrote:
You're in the abacus era! Stop the criticizing and be supportive of the gains by our students.
on November 7,2013 | 11:43AM
frontman wrote:
obama math
on November 7,2013 | 05:29AM
palani wrote:
Where getting 243 right out of 500 (49 percent) is success.
on November 7,2013 | 06:07AM
PokeStop wrote:
If it weren't for your family members the average would have surpassed 50%!
on November 7,2013 | 11:45AM
Slow wrote:
Actual academic progress and some doofus brings up Obama. Give it a rest, palsy.
on November 7,2013 | 09:11AM
mikethenovice wrote:
Above average? They must have added texting skills?
on November 7,2013 | 05:29AM
jabong wrote:
This is incredible news.
on November 7,2013 | 05:32AM
HawaiiCheeseBall wrote:
Heading in the right direction.
on November 7,2013 | 05:57AM
allie wrote:
yes..please work with KS to get more low-income children to high quality pre-k!
on November 7,2013 | 07:13AM
geralddeheer wrote:
Interesting. Change the BOE and Hawaii improves test scores. Scores have been so bad for so long that positive reports are not trusted. This time I sense a surprising trend in our favor. Congratulations BOE and DOE, let's keep moving up.
on November 7,2013 | 07:06AM
Mickels8 wrote:
That's amazing considering the number of english second language (ESL) students in our public school system. I believe we had the most diverse range of ethnicities and sheer number per capita than anywhere else in the nation. This year, my son's third grade class has four new FOB Micronesian students that could not read, speak english, or had any former schooling. From my understanding, they have one year before having to take the same standardized test as everyone else. States like Cali and Texas can hire bilingual (spanish speaking) teachers to communicate with 80% of their immigrant kids. Not so here. For Hawaii to be anywhere near the average is tremendous. Great job educators!
on November 7,2013 | 07:24AM
CouchPotato wrote:
Wow! One way to bump up your average scores are to have all the dummies skip school on testing days.
on November 7,2013 | 07:25AM
Slow wrote:
Dear Couch, we appreciate you skipping school but testing is over. You may return now.
on November 7,2013 | 09:13AM
sjean wrote:
That's not how it works. tests are given multiple times to accommodate even frequent truants. I know a a school that was dinged because of a student who could not take the HSA due to hospitalization. This student later died, and her missed test still counted against the school.
on November 7,2013 | 10:21AM
bumbye wrote:
The NAEP test students are randomly chosen. It's a one day thing. This is not HSA.
on November 7,2013 | 09:11PM
pcman wrote:
All this means is that the 'race to the middle' is hunky dory. The problem with Hawaii's public education is that teachers hold back the 'fast learners' which holds them down in the middle. If the teachers attitudes were changed to speed up every student to learn at their maximum capability, the scores would be sky high, particularly in math. If you look at scores of 30-40 years ago, Hawaii's children were usually above the national average for math albeit below the national average for English. In fact, many college admissions administrators recognized the "high math, low English" scores to be a common identifier of a student from Hawaii. Now we are just celebrating mediocrity. How sad.
on November 7,2013 | 07:33AM
Slow wrote:
I have taught 5th and 6th grade in the DOE. Never did I find a teacher holding back fast learners. You are mistaken.
on November 7,2013 | 09:15AM
artmurch wrote:
What exactly do you mean by "hold back"? If a good student does well in a science class (tests, lab. work, assignments, etc.) he/she will get a good grade (which goes on her/his record for college admission people to see) and the student passes the course and then moves on to the next science class the next year, or graduates. How is that holding a student back? If you mean sending a smart science student to the next higher science class before he/she has completed the course she/he is taking, then you don't know how either science or learning works. Have you ever heard a science fair or academic scholarship winner complain about being held back by teachers?
on November 7,2013 | 10:55AM
Mickels8 wrote:
I think pcman means the curriculum is developed to accommodate the remedial or disinterested learners.
on November 7,2013 | 01:14PM
bumbye wrote:
Elementary classes are heterogeneous. Good students are held back by their poor performing and poor BEHAVING classmates all the time.
on November 7,2013 | 09:19PM
fstop wrote:
"U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan touted Hawaii, Tennessee and Washington, D.C., as top performers "who've knocked the ball out of the park."

Yes, it's good news that Hawaii students have improved, but characterizing the results as "knocking the ball out of the park" is a bit overreaching, but useful to justify the investment. Unfortunately, all scores still remain behind the national average.

Fourth graders, reading: 2011 was 214, now it's 215 (< 0.5% increase)

Eighth graders, reading: 2011 was 257, now it's 260 (about 1% increase)

Eighth graders, math: 2011 was 278, now it's 281 (about 1% increase)

I wonder what the statistical variation was year to year before this extra $75M was provided.

on November 7,2013 | 08:09AM
Bully wrote:
Did our test scores improve or did they lower the standards?
on November 7,2013 | 08:15AM
jpo wrote:
Teaching to the test can have that kind of effect - I would like to know what else children learn in school besides being good test takers. Perhaps that's all we expect from them.
on November 7,2013 | 08:24AM
rayhawaii wrote:
But eighth-grade math and fourth- and eighth-grade reading scores in the islands remained below the national averages.........Take away iPads and iPods and other gaming devices and no TV during schools days and kids will improve. Plus having them learn to read at 4 years old helps and helps a lot more if parents that can read sit down with the kids and have them read to them instead of parents with no care in the world about their kids. Plus second hand smoke kids aways doped out in school and too slow to learn. i see it all the time, car door opens and smoke coming out while kids dropped off at school.
on November 7,2013 | 09:29AM
lee1957 wrote:
This is good news unless four years from now they are still reading at the fourth grade level. And would someone please show the kids how to hold a pen?
on November 7,2013 | 10:22AM
bookworm808hawaii wrote:
I do hope that all of the those who criticize the system are out there are doing something to help. Remember, public schools have to take EVERYBODY. They don't get the "pick of the crop" like private schools do. To produce these scores it's quite commendable. To the believers, continue to believe, they are doing good things. Don't forget, parents need to get involved with their child's education too. "It takes a village to raise a child."
on November 7,2013 | 10:42AM
tigerwarrior wrote:
Out of all these comments--I agree with yours the most. The vast majority of public schools receive some type of federal funding--such as the Race to the Top grant mentioned in the article--so federal anti-discrimination laws (e.g., Title VI, IX) apply. Lately, we've heard an awful lot about discrimination--as discrimination is illegal in many aspects of life. Most recently, in same-sex marriage proposed legislation Senate Bill 1, where some churches, who oppose same-sex marriage, are hoping that the exemptions are as broad as possible, so they can pick and choose who they provide marriage ceremonies for in order not to be considered discriminatory. Isn't it about time that the top private schools here in Hawaii are forced to rid themselves of discriminatory admission and enrollment policies? It is no wonder that public school students in Hawaii do quite well at the primary level--yet struggle at the high school level--simply because a large percentage of the gifted and talented students attend private schools in their latter years. A few generations ago--most students--including the most gifted and talented--attended public schools.
on November 7,2013 | 06:22PM
PokeStop wrote:
Give the students a pat on their backs! More importantly, good job to the public school teachers for pushing and instructing our keiki to strive for academic excellence. With limited state resources for education you have done a great service for the kids. Now only if our TROLL GOVERNOR can find the funds to increase your annual salary during the next contract negotiations! What's up Ambercrappie!
on November 7,2013 | 11:51AM
kuroiwaj wrote:
Hawaii is failing. RTTT has established standards, similar to NCLB. 500 points per subject area, great. What is the RTTT goal? If 500 is a prefect score, 70% - 79% (300 - 350) would be the average score. Hawaii's public schools are scoring 240 which is less than 50% of 500 (250) or failing (F). Now, a SAT score of 560 is 70% of 800 (a perfect score) and three 560's (1680) can get you into the University of Hawaii. But, it's at 70% not under 50%. Okay, I'm a product of the '60's and have experienced over 50 years in both public and private schools. I shared this experiment results before, of 100 white mice (50 males and 50 females) timed through a maze, recording. and charting all their times on a graph. The experiment then picked 10 males and 10 females who were the fastest and the same number of the slowest times. Kept the mice separate, bred the fast males with the fast females. Doing the same with the slow times of males and females, and recording their offspring times and repeating the same process. In six generations of white mice, there were two distinct and separate graphs, one of fast mice and one of slow mice. In my 50 years, which is three human generations, public education is creating two distinct graphs or growth bell curves. At the present progress, in the next three generations with humans will we create two separate growth bell curves? Remember there was another federal report of some 70% of our public school graduates failing the military entrance examination? The warning signs are clear that we are failing 80% of Hawaii's children, and the other 20% attend private schools. The BOE and DOE had better wake up. The HSTA and HGEA don't give a damn as long as their member employee is taken cared off. And Hawaii is adding homosexual marriage into the mix. What do you think?
on November 7,2013 | 01:46PM
lifeisgood wrote:
This is fantastic! I am disgusted with the negative comments. Really, people, quit being so negative!
on November 7,2013 | 04:41PM
sailfish1 wrote:
You obviously have low standards if you think those results are "fantastic". We aren't being negative, just calling it what it is.
on November 7,2013 | 09:39PM
Steve96785 wrote:
The. DOE has over 170,000 students in grades K-12' which is about 13,000 students per grade level. Of course some grades are larger and some smaller, but I guarantee that 6300 4th graders represent only about 50% of the total class. Sure, some were absent on all testing dates, but what about the other students? We know that if a student is not at a particular school for the Full Academic Year, they do not have to be tested. Is it likely that about half of the students have moved schools in that year? Not likely!
on November 7,2013 | 08:43PM
msott wrote:
I'm pretty sure that non-FAY students (Full Academic Year) are tested. It's just that their scores don't count. If a child is not registered in that school on the first day of school, and stays registered in that school, his/her scores are not counted in the averages. So, there's a statistically significant group of students (migrant or late registration) whose performance is not included in the averages. Often (not always), these are the type of students who have performance problems because their families move around a lot or the parents don't understand the value of coming to schoolstarting at the beginning of the year.
on November 10,2013 | 06:28AM
sailfish1 wrote:
They call that "knocked the ball out of the park"?? The fourth graders beat the average only in math and only by 2 points. Every other grade was below average in all subjects. If they think that is an accomplishment, they have very low standards.
on November 7,2013 | 09:33PM
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