By Governor Neil Abercrombie, Hawaii State Board of Education Chairman Don Horner, and Hawaii State Department of Education Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi. This commentary was originally published July 29 in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
We enter this school year with renewed determination and confidence about the future for our more than 180,000 public school students. What this means for us as education leaders is that we will continue to move forward on a unified, strategic plan for public education — adopted in July 2012 by both the Board of Education (BOE) and Department of Education (DOE) and supported by the Abercrombie administration — that defines student success and sets a course for our students to achieve it.
Our support for teaching and learning is strategic. DOE's state offices have been reorganized to better support school improvements — and local businesses, community organizations and the U.S. Department of Education, via their Race to the Top grant, have partnered to provide critical supports.
At 19 of our highest-need schools, students have longer school days, increasing their opportunities to learn. Teachers and principals at more than 80 schools will now use new tools that provide feedback to teachers on how they can improve their teaching and increase their students' learning and growth. This feedback will lead to coaching for teachers to improve their effectiveness with their students. Tools will be improved and provide parents and students with more information about students' progress and supports that students need to succeed.
It is important to recognize that our strides in the education system have garnered positive national attention. For example, a recent Harvard study cited Hawaii as one of the states making the most educational improvement. Still, we are working to move the needle on other measures of educational progress and attainment.
With the state's economy improving, we hope to do just that by increasing financial and policy support for teaching and learning. A shared commitment to student achievement is critical, which is why we continue to encourage the teachers' union to return to collective bargaining and increase teachers' opportunities for professional learning and growth.
The spectrum of our commitment begins with the state's investment in early childhood education. Research shows that children's opportunity for success increases when they are ready for kindergarten. Once a student reaches high school, we are preparing them to succeed in college or careers after high school graduation.
Based on higher expectations established last fall by the BOE, freshmen entering high school must meet diploma requirements tied to the Common Core State Standards which are shared with 44 states. Earlier this month, we celebrated last school year's increased student achievement. For the first time, the increases were across the board — in every subject and every grade level.
These achievements assure us that we are on the right path to transforming public education.
We remain united in our goals, aligned in our actions, and committed in our resolve to help every child achieve the academic skills, sense of self and connection to their community. We strive to meet students' specific and nurture their innate gifts and abilities. Together we are ensuring that our students have the options and opportunity to contribute to our islands for generations to come.