*by Pearl Hahn*

The Department of Education (DOE)’s July 16 newsletter announces the news of student achievement, claiming that proficiency scores “continue to improve” and that students are making steady gains in reading and math.

“The progress made by our schools is evidence that student achievement is improving,” Superintendent Patricia Hamamoto said.

In the school year 2008-2009, less than half, or only 44 percent of students, were deemed proficient in math. Reading proficiency was slightly higher at 65 percent.

Keep in mind that while No Child Left Behind requires 100 percent of students to reach state standards, each state is required to post assessment scores of only 95 percent of students when calculating Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) scores. Thus, it is highly possible that published numbers reflect a higher than actual percentage of proficient students. A school could theoretically claim a 100 percent proficiency rate when 5 percent of students are performing below proficiency levels.

The Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) report results are equally sobering. In the 2008-2009 school year, while 97 schools met AYP targets, nearly twice as many, 187 schools, failed to meet AYP targets.

On the DOE’s website, Hawaii State Assessment Results for 2008 are posted. It’s easy to see how the numbers reflect such poor performance when looking at results for individual schools. The first school listed, Aiea Elementary, shows that for the third grade, 9 students are well below math proficiency level, 29 students approach proficiency, 5 meet proficiency, and only 1 exceeds proficiency. In summary, 86 percent of third-graders at Aiea Elementary are not proficient and only 14 percent are proficient.

At Aliamanu Middle School, 172 eighth-graders perform well below math proficiency level, 93 approach proficiency, 77 meet proficiency, and 29 exceed proficiency. Thus, 71 percent of Aliamanu’s eighth-graders are not proficient in math and 29 percent are proficient.

Other schools’ results are posted on the DOE’s website. While the Superintendent’s Info Exchange would have you believe that all is well in the DOE, a little digging shows the opposite.