In the second year of a tougher statewide assessment, Hawaii public school students saw their math and English scores improve.
But the majority of Hawaii students tested in the 2015-16 school year still failed to meet achievement standards in math and nearly half fell short in English, results released Tuesday show.
The Smarter Balanced Assessments were first administered in the islands in spring 2015, and are aligned to the Hawaii Common Core standards.
Officials have stressed that the new standards are tougher, and stress problem solving and critical thinking over rote memorization.
In the school year that ended in May, 51 percent of Hawaii public school students met or exceeded the achievement standards in English Language Arts. That's up from 48 percent in the 2014-15 school year.
Meanwhile, 42 percent met the standards for math, up 1 percentage point from the previous year.
Smarter Balanced Assessments are administered to students in grades 3 through 8, and 11th grade. Altogether, more than 90,000 Hawaii public school students sat for the test in the 2015-16 school year.
Including Hawaii, some 17 states use the Smarter Balanced State Assessments, and 11 states have reported their results for the 2015-16 school year.
West Virginia performed the worst among the group, with 30 percent of students meeting achievement standards in math and 47 percent meeting standards in English language arts.
In math and English, Hawaii performed better than three of the 11 states reporting scores.
“The second year of results show incremental improvements and our second year of data provides a solid foundation for comparisons moving forward,” said schools Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi, in a news release. “Our schools are invested in the higher standards of this test and we hope to build on our momentum each year to ensure that our students are prepared for college, careers and community life after high school.”
Among all grades, 11th graders performed the worst in math, with just 30 percent meeting achievement standards. That percentage was unchanged from the 2014-15 school year.
Third graders, meanwhile, performed best in the subject. Some 54 percent met standards, up from 50 percent the year before.
In English, a whopping 56 percent of fifth graders and 11th graders met standards. Seventh graders performed the worst, with 47 percent meeting or exceeding standards.
The state Education Department notes that 11th graders who meet the standards for math and English can be exempted from placement tests at hundreds of colleges nationally.
Based on their scores, nearly 5,600 Hawaii 11th graders already qualify for college-level courses, the DOE said.
"The University of Hawaii system is pleased that SBA scores are trending upward as it reflects the increased preparedness of our high school graduates for college,” said University of Hawaii President David Lassner, in a news release. “UH’s continued acceptance of Smarter Balanced scores for placement means that more high school graduates will have a quicker entry into college level courses, which we know improves the pace and number of college graduates."