Hawaii DOE Progress Leads to Partial Removal of Race to the Top “High Risk” Status

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Graphic by Emily Metcalf

REPORT FROM THE DOE – The Hawaii State Department of Education’s (HIDOE) is off of Race to the Top (RTTT) “high-risk” status for its work on standards, assessments, and data system development and use. The U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) notified state education officials late Friday about the change followed by an official letter to Governor Neil Abercrombie.

“This is excellent news and the U.S. Department of Education is recognizing the important progress being made,” said Gov. Abercrombie. “Last week, I was inspired by the staff at Keaau Elementary School, where I also met with principals in the area. I saw first-hand the evidence of innovative change in the classrooms and positive student engagement. Our school leaders and teachers are transforming public education and we thank them for their commitment to educating our children.”


“This is a turning point for us as we continue our strategic transformation in our public schools,” said Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi. “The progress being made gives us great hope that federal officials will acknowledge the improvements made in the other areas of the grant.”

In August 2010, the USDOE awarded Hawaii with a four-year $75 million RTTT grant. In December 2011, Hawaii was placed on high-risk status. With the removal of high-risk status in two of its Assurance Areas (B and C), the state remains on high-risk status in Assurance Areas A, D, and E.

According to the USDOE, “the Department has determined that the evidence provided is sufficient to meet the expectation of clear and compelling evidence of substantial progress in Assurance Area B and Assurance Area C and will remove high-risk status for Hawaii’s Race to the Top grant in these two assurance areas.”

“Hawaii is clearly making gains in its reform efforts, as evidenced in the implementation of the Common Core Standards and the progress of its students,” said Council of Chief State School Officers Executive Director Chris Minnich. “I applaud Superintendent Matayoshi, Department of Education staff, and educators around the state for their collaboration and determination to improve education for Hawaii students.”

On Feb. 1, 2013 the USDOE released its second-year RTTT report, which highlighted Hawaii’s progress made through August 2012. HIDOE received recognition for a number of major accomplishments over that time period. Hawaii was also praised for making significant progress in implementing important reforms, including programs to support educator effectiveness.

“Getting off of high-risk status in those two Assurance Areas is really a tribute to our teachers and leaders, who have always put students first, and have committed to getting better results for our students,” added Deputy Superintendent Ronn Nozoe. “We’re hopeful that the same change in status will occur in the other Assurance Areas in the near future.”

A few highlights of DOE work on standards and assessments include:

  • Common Core State Standards (CCSS): Hawaii is a leader in implementing CCSS in English language arts and mathematics in the United States. CCSS will be the basis for instruction in all classrooms in the 2013-2014 school year.
    • Common Core Assessments: Hawaii joined 27 other states to form the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (Smarter Balanced). Hawaii serves as a governing state, helping to lead the consortium.
    • College- and Career-Ready (CCR) Diploma: The graduating class of 2016 will be the first to earn and graduate with the new, more rigorous CCR diploma, implemented two years ahead of schedule.
    • Continuum of Proactive Student Supports: As part of the DOE’s Comprehensive Student Support System (CSSS), all schools now have access to an early warning system that identifies students at risk of falling behind based on attendance, course grades, and behavioral data. Teachers can use the data to identify and target interventions and supports for their students.

A few highlights of the DOE work on data systems and use include:

  • High-Speed Broadband: Managed by the University of Hawaii (UH), the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) will bring high-speed fiber connectivity to every public school, public library, and higher education institution throughout the State of Hawaii. About 100 schools are ready for BTOP.
  • Data for School Improvement (DSI): The DSI system provides teachers with a formative assessment tool to collect real time data on student achievement and inform instruction. It allows educators to set up and administer assessments using an online bank of more than 15,000 standards-aligned English language arts and mathematics items.
  • Longitudinal Data System (LDS): This data warehouse longitudinally tracks students from kindergarten through high school, and provides data to inform decision-making for governance, management, resource allocation, educational pathways, curriculum, and instruction.

Federal officials will be visiting Hawaii in April to review first hand the work that is being done in all of its RTTT Assurance Areas. 

To learn more about the Hawaii’s RTTT accomplishments, please visit: https://hawaiidoereform.org/. Read about the HIDOE and Board of Education Strategic Plan at:https://doe.k12.hi.us/curriculum/strategicplan2011-2018/2012_update/index.htm.