The Hawaii Department of Education is currently struggling to make the grade — with potentially expensive consequences. As one of the 10 states in line to get millions of Race to the Top dollars, the state has to speed up its new policy plans or face losing the federal money, writes Tim Sakahara at Hawaii News Now.
In a letter from the U.S. Department of Education Policy and Program Implementation Director Governor Neil Abercrombie, the threat was outlined:
"Because of Hawaii's unsatisfactory performance during the first 14 months of the grant, we are placing Hawaii's race to the top grant on high-risk status.
"The State has not demonstrated adequate progress implementing its approved plans. The Department is concerned about the State's ability to fulfill its commitments within the grant period."
State Superintendent, Kathryn Matayoshi, responded:
"They are really trying to send a statement out not only to us but to all the race states that they are going to take those timelines very seriously.
"Their comment to us is that they are not looking for us to fail. They are looking for us to succeed but they want us to know they are serious about their deadlines."
Matayoshi says that the state will be placed on cost reimbursement basis effective immediately, which means it must provide monthly updates on progress.
"We will have to accelerate our timelines. We'll have to be more focused on this work. It's not going to be easy but I think it's doable," said Matayoshi.
The state currently has a vacancy crisis of its own in not being able to place strong teachers at weak schools, and is hampered by delays in finalizing teacher contracts. But without these contract revisions, Hawaii won't be able to start new initiatives like performance based pay or evaluation systems.
Governor Neil Abercrombie says the state must stop lagging behind and get moving finalizing the teacher's contract.
"Either this gets done right away or I'm going to the legislature with the necessary legislative proposals to see that it happens," he said.
U.S. Department of Education will require Hawaii administrators to provide "clear and compelling" evidence they've made substantial progress in their onsite inspection at the start of the new year.
This comes as an assessment of the Hawaii Charter School system claims they have misinterpreted state law and failed to oversee charters properly.
The damning audit of the Hawaii's Charter School Review Panel shows that it fails to hold charter schools accountable for student performance while allowing the schools to avoid complying with state law and principles of public accountability.
In general, the panel has delegated too much of the monitoring and accountability to the boards of individual schools, the audit says.
"We saw a lot of these problems, which is why all the things going on have been going on," said Roger McKeague, executive director of the Charter School Administrative Office.
"That's why we had the task force. It was all in recognition of the fact that there was issues, and that things needed to be tightened up to make it work better."