Absenteeism, achievement gap remain concerns for Hawaii schools, new figures show

Published: Oct. 5, 2016 at 9:42 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 6, 2016 at 1:19 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Nearly 1 in 5 Hawaii public high school students missed 15 days or more last school year and the figure topped 40 percent at some campuses, newly-released academic performance metrics show.

Meanwhile, while students are showing progress in meeting math and reading standards, the gap in achievement between students with high needs and those without barely budged last school year.

The disappointing figures were released as part of the state Education Department's Strive HI performance system, which judges schools based on a series of measures.

State Education Department officials are quick to note that standardized testing since spring 2015 has been based on tougher standards that stress critical thinking and problem solving.

They also pointed out that some schools have seen considerable gains in recent years, as the DOE sought to bolster achievement, bring down absenteeism and better prepare students for college or careers.

Statewide, 51 percent of students who took the Smarter Balanced assessments in the 2015-16 school year met the English standards and 42 percent were proficiency in math.

Kaelepulu Elementary was the highest achiever in English, with 91 percent of students meeting proficiency standards. Waikiki Elementary took the second spot, with 84 percent meeting standards, while Momilani Elementary rounded out the top three.

Waikiki Elementary performed best in math, with 84 percent of students proficient. Momilani Elementary and Kaelepulu Elementary took the second and third-place spots, respectively.

On the other end of the spectrum, Nanakuli High and Intermediate and Waianae Intermediate performed among the worst in English, with just 18 percent of students proficient.

Among non-charter public schools, Dole Middle School performed worst in math. Eleven percent of students at the school were proficient. Kaimuki High, Waianae High and Central Middle were also near the bottom of the list, with 13 percent of students proficient in math.

Public school students in grades 3 through 8 and 11th grade take the Smarter Balanced assessment annually to gauge their knowledge in key subjects.

For years, low-income students, those with English language barriers and special education students have performed worse on the standardized tests. And that achievement gap hasn't shrunk in the islands, despite increased efforts to get struggling students extra help earlier – before they fall too far behind.

The new figures show that just 39 percent of economically-disadvantaged students were proficient in English (12 percentage points lower than the average for all students). Meanwhile, 31 percent of low-income students were proficient in math, compared to 42 percent for all students.

Chronic absenteeism also remains a significant concern for Hawaii schools.

It was highest among high school students, with 19 percent missing more than 15 days in a 180-day school year. Meanwhile, 14 percent of middle schoolers and 13 percent of elementary school students were chronically absent.

While some schools had very low rates of chronic absenteeism, others had very high rates. Schools with high rates of chronic absenteeism included Waianae High (40 percent), Pahoa High and Intermediate (43 percent), and Naalehu Elementary (42 percent).

For school-by-school results, click here.

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