(Source: Mary Vorsino The Honolulu Star-Advertiser (MCT) — In 2010 the state Department of Education formed two “zones of school innovation,”one on the Leeward Coast of Oahu and the other in the Kau-Pahoa region of Hawaii island, in hopes of providing the state’s lowest-performing schools with intensive help.
Two years later the latest round of test scores shows some schools in those zones are celebrating big improvements, others are making smaller gains while a few declined in student proficiency in reading and math.
The mixed picture, education officials said, shows there is still lots of work to be done.
But officials are also upbeat, saying that even schools that didn’t make gains have made other improvements, from beefing up standards to more closely coordinating efforts between schools within the complex, from kindergarten to 12th grade.
“This kind of improvement does not happen overnight,” said education Deputy Superintendent Ronn Nozoe. “There’s no magic bullet. This is about hard work and this stuff takes time.”
The innovation zones model was designed to support struggling schools and serve as the testing area for strategies aimed at boosting student achievement and making teachers more effective.
Revised teacher evaluations that link student performance to teachers, for example, were piloted last school year in the 18 schools in the zones. This fall, 82 schools will be included in the linked program.
The zones are a centerpiece of the state’s Race to the Top grant efforts. Hawaii received the $75 million federal grant in August 2010.
Education officials note that more changes are in store for zone schools in the coming school year. Instructional days will be extended by about an hour, teachers are getting 12 more days of training and there are new efforts to help zone teachers become “instructional leaders,” weighing in on how to help schools.
Naalehu Elementary Principal Darlene Javar said Race to the Top helped her school focus on “targeted strategies” for improving student achievement.
“It’s a different culture at the school,” she said.
Forty-seven percent of students at Naalehu tested proficient in math in the past school year, up 14 percentage points from the year before. The percentage of students proficient in reading rose to 45 percent from 42 percent in 2011.
“I want to honor the growth,”Javar said. “But at the same time, we have a long way to go. At least we can say the hard work is paying off.”
Mary Correa, superintendent of the Kau-Keaau-Pahoa complex, said central to the improvement of schools in her region has been ensuring that principals “are on the same page” and agree how to move forward.
“Everybody is moving in the same direction,”she said.
Test scores declined in two of nine schools in the Hawaii island zone in the 2011-12 school year, but eight saw the percentage of students proficient rise by 5 percentage points in math or reading.
The Waianae zone didn’t fare as well.
Scores in math or reading declined at four of nine schools compared with last year. However, the percentage of students proficient in math or reading rose by 5 percentage points at three schools.
Some of the biggest gains were at Waianae High, where 60 percent of 10th-graders tested proficient in reading, up 19 percentage points from the 2010-11 school year. Thirty-one percent were proficient in math as compared with one-fifth of them last year.
At Waianae Elementary, 40 percent of students were proficient in reading, up 6 percentage points. Nanaikapono Elementary also had healthy increases in math and reading proficiency.
Among all zone schools, Nanakuli High and Intermediate had the biggest drop in reading, with 40 percent of students proficient from 42 percent the year before. At Leihoku Elementary in Waianae, math proficiency declined 5 percentage points to 51 percent.
Students in grades 10, and 3 through 8 took the Hawaii State Assessment in testing periods from October to May. It was the second year the test was administered online. Students can take the online test up to three times, and schools can use a child’s highest score.
Nozoe said that overall he’s happy with how zone schools have progressed over the last two years and where they’re going.
“The point is they’re working the plans and they’re both moving forward,”he said.
Education experiment gets uneven outcome
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