Despite efforts to improve schools, proficiency rates remain stubbornly flat

Despite efforts to improve schools, proficiency rates remain stubbornly flat
File photo of a Hawaii school. (Source: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The percentage of Hawaii public school students proficient in core subjects ― language arts, math and science ― remained relatively flat in the 2018-19 school year.

New figures, which will be discussed at a Board of Education meeting this week, show that 54% of Hawaii public school students showed proficiency in language arts. That’s down slightly from the year before. Meanwhile, just 43% were proficient in math ― the same as the year before ― and 44% tested at grade level for science (down two percentage points from the previous school year).

The state Department of Education hasn’t yet released grade-by-grade or school-level testing performance data. That will happen after the board meeting Thursday, the Education Department said.

But the overall figures paint something of a disappointing picture for a department that’s tried to re-think how student learning and progress is measured ― and how schools are rated.

In its presentation to the Board of Education, the department will also show how the gap in proficiency between non-high-need and high-need students has barely budged over the last three years.

In the 2018-19 school year, just 38% of high-needs students tested proficient in language arts compared to 72% for non-high-needs students. Meanwhile, 3 in 10 students with high needs were proficient in math compared to 6 in 10 students without high needs. High-needs students are those who come from low-income families, are English language learners or who are in special education.

There are some bright spots in the department’s performance data.

Notably, more public high school students are earning college credit before they graduate. And the high school graduation rate also ticked up by 1 percentage point in the 2018-19 school year ― to 84%.

The DOE has also significantly increased the percentage of high schoolers who complete a career and technical education program by 12th grade.

In the 2018-19 school year, 56% of 12th graders had met that indicator, up from 48% the year before.

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