Hawaii Education Blog — Accountability and Achievement { The place to learn about how we’re teaching our students.

Arbitration Panel Approves Raises for Hawaii Principals


Principals of Hawaii’s public schools and other educational officers who are members of the Hawaii Government Employees Association are getting 4.5 percent raises for four years, according to a press release.

The raises, which are retroactive to July 1, 2013, were approved as part of an award issued by an arbitration panel. 

Other highlights of the agreement include a 90-day vacation cap and a “rewards and recognition” program whose details are still being worked out. The program will be able to distribute $400,000 total in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years to educational officers who receive top evaluation ratings.

In December 2012, the state Department of Education and HGEA agreed to a principal evaluation system that is now being implemented at all 255 regular public schools. 

Photo: HGEA logo

— Alia Wong

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UH Manoa Alumni Who Paid Fee for New Rec Center Can Use It — for $300 a Year


The University of Hawaii at Manoa has decided to allow recent alumni to use the campus’s brand-new Warrior Recreation Center — as long as they pay a $300 annual membership.

To help pay for the long-drawn-out construction project, the university started imposing fees on students back in 2008.

But as Civil Beat has reported, many of the students who helped foot the bill for the recreation and fitness center never got to use it. The project was plagued by construction delays, hitches the university blamed on contractors and unexpected infrastructure problems.

Now, the Campus Center Board — the student group that’s spearheaded the project — has decided to offer those students the an “affiliate” membership rate.

The decision came after long deliberations and careful budget planning, a press release says. 

As the press release points out, “There are an estimated 80,000 UHM alumni who reside on the island of Oahu and it was clear that opening up membership to such a large group may have serious impact on student accessibility to the recreation facility, programs and services.”

The university wanted to ensure the center could accommodate all current students who pay the mandatory fee. 

Officials apologized for making the decision about the alumni so late. 

The center officially opened earlier this month, more than a year behind schedule. 

Photo: the Warrior Recreation Center. (Courtesy of UH System via Flickr)

— Alia Wong

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UH Narrows Final Presidential Picks to Less Than Five Candidates


The 13-member committee charged with selecting the next president to lead the University of Hawaii has narrowed its nominees down to four candidates or less, according to a press release.

It’s unclear exactly how many candidates are being considered, as some of the finalists have withdrawn their applications due to privacy concerns, the press release says. The committee was charged with publicizing the names of its final candidates, which were initially said to include between five and six people. 

The committee — made up of regents and others representing various UH stakeholders — will present its final report at a special meeting April 28. 

Lead by Regent Carl Carlson, the committee highlighted its commitment to public transparency. Carlson said in a press release:

This was an opportunity to hear from the community about what it wanted in a public university and to re-establish and rebuild a sense of trust that had been severely damaged. I believe we made progress in the dozens of public meetings with hundreds and hundreds of individuals.

The committee opted not to hire a third-party headhunting firm and instead conducted its own search. 

Carlson noted:

… to conduct the search ourselves, we cast the widest net possible in Hawaii and beyond and have vetted, screened, interviewed and considered any and all nominations we received.

— Alia Wong

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State Officials Declare Tomorrow ‘UH Community Colleges Day’


April 23 is officially “UH Community Colleges Day.”

Gov. Neil Abercrombie will make the formal proclamation tomorrow, marking the 50th anniversary of the community college system we know today.

On the same day back in 1964, then-Gov. John A. Burns signed into law pivotal legislation that “would forever change the educational landscape of the entire state of Hawaii — affordable higher education,” a press release says.

Today, Hawaii’s seven community colleges serve more than 33,000 students statewide, “providing Hawaii’s citizens with the best opportunities and resources available in higher education today.”

An array of university notables will attend tomorrow’s proclamation, including UH Vice President of Community Colleges John Morton, UH Interim President David Lassner and UH Board of Regents Chair John Holzman. 

Civil Beat featured the state’s community colleges — and the people who define them — in a headline story yesterday: Hawaii’s Community College Trap: Why Does It Take So Long to Graduate?

Photo: Honolulu Community College. (PF Bentley/Civil Beat)

— Alia Wong

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Kapiolani Community College Shutting Down Student-Run Newspaper


Kapio News, the newspaper run by students at Kapiolani Community College, is printing its final issue at the end of this month. 

The announcement was posted on the newspaper’s Facebook page in early April. The school administration made the decision to shutter the paper because it wants to “move Kapio in a new direction,” the post says. 

Now, the publication will feature “outstanding student work and other events as deemed important by the school,” according to the Facebook post. Because Kapio will be run by faculty and staff, student writers and editors are no longer needed. 

The farewell issue will be distributed the week of April 28. 

Readers and alumni have since come together on social media urging the paper’s staff to resist the school’s decision. 

Among those protesting the shutdown is Robert Lopez, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter at the Los Angeles Times who started his career as a student reporter for Kapio. 

But Kapio staff members say it’s unlikely they’ll be able to petition the University of Hawaii to keep the student-run paper alive because of how little time there is left before the end of the year. And creating a separate student-run publication, they say, would be difficult because KCC would consider it an unofficial student group and would not compensate the students for running it; Kapio staff members are currently paid as student workers.

As much as many of our staff members would like to continue writing, we do need a paid job to help cover our personal expenses,” another post says.

Photo: Kapio News. (Courtesy of Kapio’s Facebook page)

— Alia Wong


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Punahou, Iolani Teens to Learn How to Code and Develop Tech Startup in Workshop


Two accomplished web developers are hosting a two-day workshop this week that promises to teach participants how to code and successfully launch a tech startup.

Like the other “Firehose Weekend” workshops Marco Morawec and Ken Mazaika have hosted across the country, the course aims to teach people how to quickly code up a fully functional web application.

But this one is different in that it’s geared toward middle- and high school students.

The workshop — which is happening this Friday and Saturday and costs $350 — is only open to students from Punahou and Iolani. Enrollment is capped at 25 seats.

Technical experience is not required. 

Most of the course will be devoted to working on a fixed application, but students will also have time to work on their own app ideas. 

Coding knowledge will be one of the key skills within the next five years, especially for Hawaii’s workforce, Morawec said. 

Morawec and Mazaika have already hosted workshops at the University of Hawaii and Hawaii Pacific University. 

Click here for more info. 

Photo: A student at another Firehose Weekend workshop. (Courtesy of Firehose Weekend.)

— Alia Wong

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Windward Oahu Schools Expanding Autism Program, Building Cohort of Experts


Teachers say autism can be one of the most difficult developmental disorders to address in the classroom, and that’s often because they’re not familiar with the condition and how students with it learn.

But a program that’s being rolled out at public schools in Oahu’s Windward area aims to demystify the complex disorder and equip teachers and other educators with the skills they need to best serve autistic children.   

The program is based at Kaneohe’s Ahuimanu Elementary School, where it was first launched four years ago.

The program has since expanded its reach and bolstered its cohort of experts with the intention of serving students at all schools in the area. And Hawaii Department of Education Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi recently certified the program in “Instructional Capacity,” making it the only program in the state to receive that credential.

The program helps one in 76 students, according to Aletha Sutton, who founded and now leads the initiative. It serves 206 students total from all 31 schools in the area. 

It focuses on recruiting and training professionals who are already DOE employees. The program has grown from 16 employees to 67 since 2010.

As part of the program, teachers observe their colleagues, who are filmed on camera, and wear earpieces to share immediate feedback.

Teachers take courses for credit at training sites. 

Photo: The Autism Team. (Courtesy of Windward District office.)

— Alia Wong

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Hawaii Nonprofit Raises $132K for Molokai, Lanai Student Athletes


A private campaign to salvage Molokai and Lanai’s public high school athletic programs just made a home run. 

The Downtown Athletic Club Hawaii, a nonprofit that was founded to support public school sports, announced today that it’s raised $131,500 and counting as the result of a benefit fundraiser aimed at keeping the small islands’ athletic programs afloat.

The January fundraiser was prefaced by a mini documentary that featured the schools’ athletes and all the extra burdens they face in order to compete with their peers from other schools across the state. The documentary, which aired on local TV stations, showed students enduring bumpy ferry rides and sleeping on gym floors to participate in off-island games. 

Both schools face huge shortfalls in their athletic travel budgets. Molokai High School’s program, for example, is short $32,000.

Of the proceeds from the fundraiser, $85,000 went to Molokai and $46,000 went to Lanai — an allocation based on student numbers and earmarked donations. 

The money will be used to help purchase new uniforms and defray travel costs, among other uses. 

But the schools’ athletic programs could still struggle to make ends meet. 

State funding for Hawaii Department of Education athletics programs has been cut by a third over the years since the Great Recession and is now down to $9.2 million for the upcoming fiscal year.

A Senate bill to restore that funding was introduced this year by Sen. David Ige, but the measure stalled once it was referred to the House.

Read past Civil Beat coverage on school sports funding

Moving the Ball: Hawaii Senator Wants Millions More for School Sports 

Photo: A school athletic field in Honolulu. (PF Bentley/Civil Beat)

— Alia Wong

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Nat’l Nonprofit to Engage With Hawaii Teachers, Facilitate Common Core Rollout


A national nonprofit aimed at improving the teaching profession is partnering with the Hawaii Department of Education and the state teachers union to engage with the community and help facilitate implementation of the new Common Core State Standards.

Hope Street Group, whose programs include efforts to reform teacher evaluations, is going to help the state develop a cohort of “teacher leaders” who will serve as fellows for at least one year. The fellows will be tasked with engaging with peers and the community, collecting data and developing media strategies — all with an eye on keeping the community informed about the state’s Common Core standards. 

The Common Core State Standards are a new set of rigorous math and English language arts learning goals designed to ensure students are on track for success later in life. All but five states have adopted the standards. The standards are being tested out among students in all grades at every Hawaii school this year and will be fully implemented next school year.  

The Hope Street Group fellows are expected to share the data with state education officials and policymakers, helping ensure the Common Core rollout is as smooth as possible.

Wil Okabe, president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, said the partnership with Hope Street Group will help ensure teachers have the “tools, knowledge and networks necessary to thrive in the classroom.”

"By working together to overcome obstacles, we can set an example for the nation of impactful educator empowerment," he said in a statement.

The Hawaii partnership is modeled after a similar teacher fellows program run by Hope Street Group in Kentucky.

"We believe building trust and instilling ownership in reforming education will elevate the teaching profession and the expectations for teacher engagement in the long term," said Dan Cruce, vice president of education at Hope Street Group, in a statement. "This important work is intended to build teacher leadership skills and ultimately help ensure students in Hawaii are prepared for college and career success."

A $669,000 grant from the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation is financing the program. 

Teachers interested in the Hope Street Group fellowship can apply here

Photo: McKinley High teacher Cindy Reves with her journalism students. (PF Bentley/Civil Beat)

— Alia Wong

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Long-Awaited UH Manoa Recreation Center Opens Today


The long-overdue student recreation center at the University of Hawaii at Manoa is finally opening its doors today.

The Warrior Recreation Center’s grand opening is featuring a range of activities, including tours of the center, recreational class demonstrations and entertainment. The day wraps up with a Taste of Manoa food festival and a carnival. 

The much-anticipated, energy-efficient center includes a wide range of fitness facilities.

Today’s opening is more than a year behind schedule. University officials have said the project experienced an array of unforeseen delays, including infrastructure and utility problems. 

The $47 million project was in part funded by a student fee that has been in place since 2007; many of the students who helped foot the bill for the building will never be able to use it. 

Only students who are in good financial standing with the university and have paid that fee are able to utilize the center, which will be open from 5:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. on weekdays and from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on weekends.

Others who want to use the center — including UH employees — can opt to pay a $240 annual membership.

Read Civil Beat’s coverage of the recreation center: Delays Plague Student-Funded Recreation Center at UH Manoa.

Photo: The recreation center under construction back in July 2013. (Alia Wong/Civil Beat)

— Alia Wong

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Navy Waterline Break Prompts Closure of Aiea Elementary School


A waterline maintained by the U.S. Navy broke this morning and flooded the Aiea Elementary School campus, forcing the school to close for the day. The school resumes classes tomorrow, according to a Hawaii Department of Education tweet

The pipe broke early this morning on a street near the school parking lot’s entrance. DOE spokesman Alex Da Silva said that, as of this morning, only the parking lot had experienced “substantial flooding” and that classes and offices were not affected. 

Although the Navy doesn’t provide water to the school, it owns the waterline that runs from the Halawa Pump Station.

A crew from the Naval Facilities Engineering Command is working to shut down the line and investigate if the break is in the 24-inch pipe or a line leading off of it. A Navy press release says the problem could also be a faulty valve. 

The Navy apologized for the inconvenience caused and said it doesn’t yet know how long the repairs will take. 


Photo: The waterline break. (Courtesy of KITV)

— Alia Wong

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Keiki Entrepreneurs to Compete in Lemonade Stand Challenge Saturday


The students participating in Saturday’s “Lemonade Alley” have to do more than ask parched passers-by to buy a cup of their citrusy concoctions. 

Each of the 25 or so teams has to convince those potential customers that its lemonade is a better buy than that of the stand next store. The teams are each made up of between two and five students ranging from grades kindergarten through 12. 

Saturday’s event at Pearlridge Shopping Center is the result of a month of work on part of the kids, who had to design and build the lemonade stands, invent recipes and promote their one-day businesses.

During the competition, the students will participate in a judged taste test and a one-minute on-stage sales pitch.  

Lemonade Alley is an annual competition that aims to teach students about entrepreneurship, financial literacy and charitable giving. The proceeds of the lemonade stands go to local charities selected by the kids. 

The teams compete in three grade divisions and are eligible for $1,000 cash awards and other prizes. 

Admission to Lemonade Alley, which is being held in the center’s parking lot between TJ Maxx and California Pizza Kitchen, is free. 

Click here for more information. Or follow Lemonade Alley on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook


Photo: Students in the 2012 Lemonade Alley finals. (Courtesy of Nathene Lynn Antonio via Lemonade Alley)

— Alia Wong

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$200K Gates Foundation Grant Aims to Help UH Boost College-Going Rates in Hawaii


The University of Hawaii has received a $200,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for its efforts to increase the percentage of people in the state who have college degrees.

UH joins a group of 11 other universities that are serving as laboratories for innovative approaches to higher education transformation. UH for its part is developing tools that provide students and administrators with real-time information on academic progress to help students complete their degree programs on time. 

UH Interim President David Lassner pointed out in a press release that less than half of Hawaii’s population — 42 percent — holds a two- or four-year degree. Estimates suggest that, by 2018, 65 percent of jobs in Hawaii will require at least some college education. 

UH wants 55 percent of the population to hold a college degree by 2025. The effort is part of a university initiative launched in 2008 that has already increased the number of degree-holding graduates by 27 percent and boosted by 30 percent the number of community-college students who transfer to a four-year campus. 

Other universities participating in the Gates Foundation initiative include the University of Texas, the Unviersity of Wisconsin and the Utah System of Higher Education.

Photo: UH graduation, Fall 2011. (Courtesy of UH System via Flickr.)

— Alia Wong

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Many Hawaii Teachers Confused, Concerned About New Evaluation System, Survey Results Show


The state’s first formal year with its new educator evaluation system is winding down, but results from a recent survey show that many Hawaii teachers are still unclear about key parts of the evaluations and how they affect their jobs. 

Many of the teachers also expressed skepticism over the fairness of the evaluations.

The survey, conducted by the Hawaii Department of Education in conjunction with the Hawaii State Teachers Association, was sent to all 13,500 public school teachers, about a third of whom completed it. The survey period ran Feb. 25 through March 11.

The joint online survey aimed to get feedback from teachers on their experiences with the evaluation system to help the DOE identify its strengths and weaknesses. The evaluations were implemented statewide for the first time this school year.

The results show that teachers want more time to prepare for the evaluations as well as more guidance and clarity on how they work. 

DOE Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi said the department will be using the findings “as part of a collective process to help better understand strengths and identify areas for improvement.”

Some highlights from the findings:

  • One in five respondents understand the evaluation system very well, while a similar portion doesn’t understand it at all. 
  • The classroom observations are the best understood component, while the “student growth model” is the least understood
  • Just one in five respondents strongly agreed that the evaluation system has helped them improve their teaching
  • Forty-three percent of respondents strongly agreed that “bias will factor into the classroom observations”
  • Forty percent of respondents strongly disagreed that “administrators will be data driven and objective when assigning SLO (student learning objectives) ratings”
  • More than half — 51 percent — or respondents strongly disagreed that the “working portfolio requirement accurately reflects their professional responsibilities”
  • Nearly two-thirds — 64 percent — of respondents strongly disagreed that their “students will put thought and effort into their Tripod Student Survey answers”

Wil Okabe, HSTA president, said the survey reflected what the union has been hearing from teachers: that the evaluation system is “a work in progress” and that “teachers feel that more needs to be done so that the EES can help improve the practice of teaching.”

An executive summary on the survey results can be found here

Read past Civil Beat coverage on the evaluations:

Educators May Give Poor Marks to New Teacher Evaluation System

What’s Going On With Hawaii Ed Task Force On Teacher Evaluations?

Can Hawaii Kindergarteners Flunk Their Teachers?


Photo: Stock photo of an evaluation. (Courtesy of Fotalia.)

— Alia Wong

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Hawaii Audit Shows Progress in Public Housing Authority, Charter School Accountability


The Hawaii auditor has commended the State Public Charter School Commission for so quickly turning around an education system that lacked serious oversight. 

In a report the office released Tuesday, the auditor says a 2012 law that re-established charter schools’ governance structure and clarified the lines of accountability shows real promise. 

There is still much work to be done, the auditor says, but the office is optimistic about the transformation that has occurred over the past two years.

The auditor’s report also followed up on the progress being made on the public housing front. 

In 2011, the auditor sharply criticized the Hawaii Public Housing Authority for a wide range of shortcomings, including a sporadic monitoring of its project managers, a backlog of repairs and poor inventory procedures.

Since that report, however, the agency has implemented more than half of the auditor’s recommendations but still lacks policies to ensure complaints are handled uniformly. 

"The HPHA also lacks accurate work order data," the auditor’s report says. "We also experienced difficulty in obtaining documentation from HPHA and scheduling interviews with staff, which hindered our ability to thoroughly evaluate and verify whether HPHA had implemented our recommendations…"

Read the auditor’s full report here.

Read past Civil Beat coverage of charter school reform here and of public housing here.

Nathan Eagle


Photo: Audit letters. (Lending Memo via Flickr)

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