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English, math assessment scores up for Hawaii students

Hawaii public school students made slight gains over last year in English language arts and math on the Smarter Balanced Assessment, according to test results released tonight by the state Department of Education. 

More than 90,000 Hawaii students took the more rigorous Common Core-aligned test this spring. The assessment satisfies federal requirements that students be tested annually in reading and math in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school.

Overall, 51 percent of students met or exceeded the achievement standards in English language arts, the DOE said in a news release. That’s up from 48 percent of students the previous year — the first year Hawaii students took the Smarter Balanced exams.

Meanwhile, 42 percent of students met or exceeded the achievement benchmarks in math, compared with 41 percent of students the year prior.

Within the seven individual grades tested, all grade levels saw improvements over the previous year in students testing proficient in language arts. On the math portion of the test, all but two grade levels — 7th and 8th — saw increases or maintained proficiency levels.

“The second year of results show incremental improvements and our second year of data provides a solid foundation for comparisons moving forward,” schools Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi said in a statement. “Our schools are invested in the higher standards of this test and we hope to build on our momentum each year to ensure that our students are prepared for college, careers and community life after high school.”

In language arts, the state’s fifth- and 11th-graders performed best, with 56 percent of students in both grades meeting or exceeding benchmarks. On the opposite end, 47 percent of seventh-graders tested proficient in language arts. In math, the state’s third-graders performed best, with 54 percent of students meeting or exceeding standards, while just 30 percent of 11th-graders tested proficient in math.

The Smarter Balanced tests two years ago replaced the Hawaii State Assessment and are designed to emphasize critical thinking, problem solving and analytical thinking over rote memorization. Students are required to show how they reached their answers, and if they answer correctly, they get a more difficult question.

Seventeen states and the Bureau of Indian Affairs administered the exam in the spring. The tests are seen by some as advantageous because they can provide an “apples-to-apples” comparison of student performance among participating states.

Test scores compiled by the DOE from 10 other states that have so far released results show Hawaii students in grades 3 through 8 performed similarly or better than five other states in math, and better than three other states in language arts.

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