Hawaii public schools will aim to graduate more students, enroll more graduates in college, retain more teachers, improve test scores and educate more special-education students in regular classes by 2020 under a revised strategic plan that officials say is designed to better support student success.
The targets — some of them new — are among a dozen so-called success indicators included in the latest update of the state Department of Education and Board of Education’s joint strategic plan. The board is scheduled to take up the plan, which would take effect next school year, at its monthly meeting Tuesday.
“We think this plan is more student-centered than the previous plan,” said Tammi Oyadomari-Chun, the department’s assistant superintendent for strategy, innovation and performance. “This one is deliberately organized around what we expect for all students.”
Statewide targets for schools to reach by 2020 have been set for each of the 12 benchmark areas, which include:
>> Chronic absenteeism: The percentage of students who are absent for 15 days or more during the school year. “Student attendance is a strong predictor of student success,” the plan says. “Students need to be in school to benefit from educational opportunities.”
>> Special-education inclusion rate: The percentage of students receiving special-education services who are in general education classes for 80 percent or more of the school day. “Inclusion is a commitment to success for all students,” the plan says.
>> High school graduation: The percentage of students who earn a diploma within four years.
>> Collegegoing rate: The percentage of high school completers enrolled in postsecondary institutions — two- or four-year colleges or vocational or trade schools — in the fall following graduation.
>> Teacher retention: The percentage of teachers retained after five years. “Continuing employment of qualified and effective teachers results in benefits to students as teachers gain experience and expertise, and reduces expenditures of recruitment,” the plan says.
The state’s current strategic plan was last updated in 2012, a time when the federal No Child Left Behind law was still in effect and raising reading and math scores was a mandated priority across the country. That law has since been replaced by the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, which Congress designed to devolve federal control over public education to states when it comes to school accountability, teacher evaluations, student testing and support for struggling schools.
Soon after passage of ESSA a year ago, Hawaii’s BOE called on the department to review and extend the state’s strategic plan. The department over the past year hosted more than 100 community focus groups to collect input and received more than 1,400 responses to an online survey. It also solicited input and feedback from principals, teachers and students.
“It’s really the culmination of a long process of a lot of engagement,” Chun said.
The revised plan retains the three overarching goals in the existing plan: student success, staff success and successful systems of support. The objectives for each goal, however, are more “student-centered,” according to the DOE.
For example, some of the objectives under the student-success goal include efforts to increase student engagement and empowerment; support students’ physical, mental and social-emotional well-being; and ensure a well-rounded education in all subject areas. The objectives for the other two goals have also been reworked to better support student success.
“It calls out more clearly what we always thought was good practice but wasn’t as emphasized during the No Child Left Behind years,” Chun said.
Schools Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi said a lot of the strategies are aimed at empowering students to play a lead role in directing their learning.
“The student is really in the driver’s seat a little more and really part of the learning process and not just the subject of the learning process,” Matayoshi said during a recent Honolulu Star-Advertiser editorial board meeting. “The idea was that we wanted students really thinking about ‘What am I learning and why am I learning it?’”
That could mean, for example, a shift to project- or place-based learning for some schools.
Chun said the revised plan also places a bigger emphasis on equity by setting goals for students of all backgrounds and needs.
“One of the other big changes or emphases in this plan is around equity, so about making sure that all of our students achieve these goals and not just some,” she said. “It’s not just in the language, but in some of our metrics.”
For example, the plan sets a goal of closing the achievement gap between students categorized as high-needs — those receiving special-
education services, those who are economically disadvantaged and English-
language learners — and their peers.
Corey Rosenlee, president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, which represents more than 13,000 members, said that although the strategic plan includes some well-intentioned goals, he’s wary of the department’s ability to implement such plans.
“Some of our concern is that we don’t feel it’s enough of a policy document,” Rosenlee said in an interview. “It has a lot of value statements. The question is, How are they going to do this?”
Rosenlee said teachers have yet to see evidence of the department moving away from what they see as mandated curricula, a heavy emphasis on tested subjects, and a prescriptive and punitive teacher evaluation system.
“We agree with the values,” he said. “If we could see actions that match these values currently, we would be much more supportive that we’re headed on that path. But unless we see something — policies that are either on paper or are actionable now — you could say we have a lot of skepticism.”
The federal ESSA legislation requires states to develop a state educational plan, which the DOE is working on separately from its strategic plan. The department says the strategic plan will help guide the state’s ESSA plan, which is due in April to the federal Education Department.
Meanwhile a 19-member task group of volunteers assembled by Gov. David Ige is finalizing a “blueprint” that the governor has called for to guide a revamping of public education in Hawaii. That plan is expected to take a long-range approach.
The strategic plan is posted online at 808ne.ws/DOEstratplan.