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Hawaii State Assessment: slight dips in math, reading

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    Lei Vickers of Puu Kukui Elementary School started her first day with second graders in Waikapu on Aug. 5

After a decade of growth, the number of Hawaii public school students performing at grade level in math dipped slightly last year while reading scores also slid — decreases officials say were expected as the state continues its transition to a more rigorous set of curriculum standards and schools gear up for a new standardized assessment this year.

Overall, 59 percent of isle students tested proficient in math for the 2013-14 school year, down from 60 percent the year before, the state Department of Education announced Monday. The percentage of students performing at grade level in reading slipped to 69 percent from 72 percent a year prior.

The drops mark the first time since the 2002-03 school year that statewide progress in math on the Hawaii State Assessment hasn’t seen an uptick, and the first time since 2010-11 that year-over-year reading scores haven’t risen.

Students in grades 3 through 8 and 10 last year took a so-called bridge assessment — a subset of math and reading questions from the previous Hawaii State Assessment that most aligned to the new Common Core standards to help with the transition to the Smarter Balanced tests students will take later this year.

Science test scores improved on the Hawaii State Assessment, with the overall percentage of students testing proficient up 6 percentage points to 40 percent.

"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."

"We expected an adjustment as new standards and assessments challenge students to understand and demonstrate knowledge and skills in deeper and more meaningful ways," she added. 

Statewide scores were released Monday as part of the state Department of Education’s Strive HI accountability system for schools, which since last year has largely replaced federal requirements under the No Child Left Behind Law.

In addition to test scores, schools are now evaluated using criteria that varies for elementary and secondary schools, such as reducing chronic absenteeism, increasing graduation and college-going rates, and closing the achievement gap between high-needs students (those who are disabled or economically challenged and English language learners) and their non high-needs peers.

Schools receive a score out of a possible 400 points, which determines where schools land in one of five categories: Recognition (top 5 percent of schools); Continuous Improvement; Focus; Priority (lowest 5 percent of schools); and Superintendent’s Zone.

The chronic absenteeism rate — reflecting students who are absent 15 days or more — among elementary school students improved to 11 percent of students from 18 percent the year before, meaning 5,500 fewer students overall were chronically absent.

Among high schools, the state’s overall graduation rate and college-going rate remained flat, at 82 percent and 63 percent, respectively. And the number of students scoring well on the eighth-grade and 11th grade ACT college-prep test also stayed flat. Meanwhile, the statewide achievement gap between high-needs students and their less needy peers widened by two percentage points.

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