HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii students could see less testing and a greater emphasis on individualized learning in the coming year thanks to a new federal law aimed at giving states more control over how to assess student performance.
The Every Student Succeeds Act replaces the controversial No Child Left Behind Law, which stressed testing in math and English and sanctioned schools that didn't meet rising proficiency standards.
On Thursday, the governor announced the creation of a 17-member task force, made up of educators and other stakeholders, who will assess Hawaii's public school system, identify needs and develop a new state education plan with the new federal law in mind.
The task force plans to hold public meetings.
"No Child Left Behind assured that every public school would fail," Gov. David Ige said, in announcing the formation of an ESSA team. "This is a significant opportunity to change public education in Hawaii and we definitely are grasping it," Ige said.
Task force chairman Darrel Galera, a former principal, said the group has a "huge opportunity" to change education in the islands.
"It's those closest to the schools and the students who know best on how to educate their students," he said.
Teacher Amy Perusso agrees.
She said NCLB severely limited teachers and schools, and tried to fit all students into the same mold.
"It's been education de-form in my mind," she said. Now, "we can also start teaching to the whole child. The assessments that we use no longer have to be narrow rigid standardized tests."
President Barrack Obama signed ESSA into law in December, and federal officials have stressed that education blueprints will differ from state to state as part of push to more authority in the hands of local education authorities.
State Schools Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi said the DOE has been analyzing the new federal law.
"So far, we've engaged with more than 100 of our principals and will continue to meet with stakeholders," she said. "We look forward to learning more about the Governor's plans and coordinating efforts to advance education for our keiki."
Ige said ESSA puts public education into the hands of state educators, rather than relying on across-the-board mandates.
Perruso believes that will be better for teachers.
"Now it is incumbent upon us to do something with that power and change how we are organizing our education," she said. "The main thing is to bring back the joy of learning so that students look forward to going to school and want to be in school."