A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers audit of 25 public schools in Hawaii found common problems including:

*”an inconsistency in connecting school curriculum to statewide reading and math standards.”

*”many of the schools do not have a consistent process for developing a curriculum that ensures that the state’s standards are taught within grade levels and across content areas.”

*”lack of feedback or observation on whether teachers are following state standards.”

*”some teachers have their own lesson plans and grading that are at odds with the state’s guidelines.”

*”administrators and teachers are not adequately analyzing student data.”

*”teachers do not use classroom assessments to drive instruction or make changes to curriculum based on the needs of their students.”

The knowledgeable reader will also note some another things Hawaii public schools have in common:

The Department of Education has utterly refused to establish an academic curriculum — evidently in the belief that Hawaii public school children are intellectually inferior, unable to master a common core curriculum — so has forced this task down for each school to address ad hoc.

DOE is, by default (and by design), unable to devise objectively measurable performance standards aligned to curriculum.

DOE is unwilling even to promulgate a standard grading scale — so common in real school districts — that unambiguously quantifies the meaning of traditional grades A, B, C, D, and F for students, teachers and parents.

The DOE’s so-called “content and performance standards” are nothing of the sort. A mushy wish list of feel good junk has been cobbled together three grades at a whack in a way that utterly defies objective performance assessment.

Result? Chaos reigns supreme. Each teacher is free to do exactly as he or she wishes. Under these turbid conditions, any notion of coherence or consistency from school to school — or even from class to class within the same school — is sheer fantasy. Some teachers have even been persuaded to (or intimidated into) a waste of precious class time, teaching the exact text of the humbug “standards” instead of the essentials of their subject.

Conclusions: Chaos is no accident. DOE views genuine accountability as the enemy. DOE must tap dance like crazy, pretending to comply with the No Child Left Behind mandate. Either that or risk losing future federal funding streams that for the first time ever may be linked to actual student performance.

Corollary one: Absence of a common curriculum notwithstanding, DOE blithely tests children every year on material they may or may not have been taught. DOE has the brazen audacity to point a public finger of blame (“failing”) at schools, teachers, and children when annual test scores predictably remain in the tank.

Corollary two: DOE will go to any lengths to obfuscate, dissemble, and finger point to protect the cherished careers of non-teaching officials who populate the upper reaches of a humoungus, bureaucratically stultified lashup that treats almost two billion tax dollars a year as a private slush fund to do with as they will.

Corollary three: It is DOE, rather than “failing” schools, that should be audited.

Small wonder state Board of Education member Karen Knudsen is reported to have been “concerned that critics would use the findings to hammer the DOE.”

It is high time our state legislators handed voters the hammer. DOE has done more than enough damage to our children.

”’Thomas E. Stuart, a public school teacher in Kapaau, Hawaii, can be reached via email at:”’ mailto:Thom1s@aol.com

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