HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Just 42 percent of Hawaii's public school students scored proficient in math on statewide tests in the 2016-17 school year, while half reached benchmarks in language arts.
The disappointing figures, essentially flat from the previous year, underscore the difficulties public schools face in preparing students under the more rigorous Common Core learning standards that stress problem solving and the application of learned knowledge.
The state released the assessment scores Tuesday night, and stressed the growth being seen in particular schools or grade levels.
But the lack of growth overall is certain to be a point of discussion for the state Education Department — and its new superintendent — in coming months. One particular area of concern: The gap in achievement among "high needs" students didn't budge in the 2016-17 school year, despite lots of work to ensure those kids get extra help.
The proficiency tests are used as one major rubric in measuring school performance under the state's Strive HI system.
Students in grades three to eight and 11 take Smarter Balanced assessments to measure their proficiency in English and math. Science proficiency is based on a separate test.
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In math last school year, just 31 percent of 11th graders met proficiency benchmarks, while 53 percent of third graders and 48 percent of fourth graders met the standards.
Meanwhile, 57 percent of juniors met the language arts standards. In lower grades, proficiency rates ranged from 47 to 53 percent.
And in science, 46 percent of students overall were proficient. That's up from 43 percent in the previous school year.
Superintendent Dr. Christina Kishimoto called the results "encouraging."
They "show our focus moving in the right direction with college and career readiness measures remaining steady, including some growth in science,"
"As we move forward, we will be very specific and purposeful in our approach to address the achievement gap and chronic absenteeism. We will take what we have learned about effective student-centered practices since 2005 and raise our implementation work to another level," Kishimoto added.
There were some big bright spots in the new assessments.
At Kauai High, 59 percent of juniors were proficient in reading. That's up from 25 percent in 2015.
At Pauoa Elementary, 81 percent of students were proficient in math, up from 47 percent in 2015.
But there were also some major areas of concern at particular schools and across complexes.
At Waianae High, for example, just 8 percent of students were proficient in math, and 18 percent in English. Meanwhile, 42 percent of students at the school were chronically absent, or out for 15 or more days in the school year.
At Central Middle, 14 percent of students were proficient in math, and one-fourth of students reached benchmarks in English. A full 31 percent of students missed 15 days or more in the 2016-17 school year.