Education Leaders Redefining Success For Hawaii Students

Katherine Poythress/Civil Beat

The Hawaii State Board of Education's first-ever retreat on Saturday aimed to go beyond test scores in defining success for public schools and students.

The retreat was held from 9 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. at the First Hawaiian Center. Its participants included not only the nine Board of Education members, but the state's 15 complex area superintendents and at least 15 other education leaders from across the state, both public and private.

Notable people present included facilitator Terry George, executive vice president of the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation, Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi, Senate Education Chairwoman Jill Tokuda and parent advocate/HEE spokeswoman Kathy Bryant-Hunter.

Perhaps the most significant development of the day came when Matayoshi announced a restructuring of the department.

It was a strategic session to refine the Hawaii Department of Education's goals for the next six years, and to critique its to-do list for reaching those goals. It was the first meeting of its kind in the memory of any of the longtime educators and policymakers at the long, long table.

"Today we want to look at action items," said Board of Education Chairman Don Horner, who hosted the event. "We want to leave here with things to do."

The primary reason for the meeting was the department's strategic six-year plan, which has to be submitted to the Board of Education for approval in March. But the department's plan to apply for exemption from certain federal No Child Left Behind requirements widened the discussion.

To gain flexibility from the requirements, the state would to show it has a better way to hold schools accountable for student success. And a better way to define student success. The department's application is due in February.

Also serving as context for the discussion was the department's commitment to national Common Core curriculum standards and its federal Race to the Top obligations to raise student achievement, beef up professional development for teachers and streamline its information systems.

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