Hawaii Needs Method to Evaluate Teacher Effectiveness, Expert Tells Lawmakers

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BY EDDIE KIM – Evaluating teachers on their effectiveness in the classroom can be tricky and controversial.  Countless factors contribute to the learning experience of a student, and throughout America, school districts have struggled to develop reliable systems of measuring a teacher’s performance.

With the goal of creating such a system in mind, Hawaii legislators on Thursday held a joint House and Senate informational briefing on teacher evaluations, featuring national researcher and teaching expert Laura Goe.


Goe discussed strategies for effective teaching evaluations and noted trends and difficulties that faced any school district attempting to elevate the performance of both teachers and students.

“Policy decisions by schools and school districts are way ahead of research on how to properly evaluate teaching,” she stated.  “And I see a lot of policies that aren’t based in any sort of statistical fact.”

Goe said that for a state like Hawaii, which is essentially developing teacher evaluations from square one, will have a lack of data, ultimately creating obstacles.  Goe also told state legislators that with Hawaii’s limited resources, setting up an evaluation systems will take time, money and personnel to execute properly.

Perhaps most importantly, Goe stressed that evaluations should be firmly rooted in factual, objective evidence as opposed to a general “judgment” of a classroom environment or teaching style.

“If teachers believe that the person who is evaluating them is trained and effective, they will buy into the process more and there will be better, more useful data in the end,” she said.

Goe recommended a hybrid system that could track individual teacher-created “learning objectives” from the beginning of the school year to the end, combined with teacher collaboration within subjects to form more standardized overall measurements.  On the flip side, she discouraged evaluation systems that placed too much emphasis on standardized test results.

“It’s great for a student to know content, but it’s more important that they gain real world skills, because that’s what will really help them in the future.  Employers look for the ability to apply knowledge,” she said.

While gauging teachers’ performance in the classroom has been considered challenging in Hawaii, other states have figured out a system by focusing on student achievement.

Incentives such as the federal Race To The Top grant, a $4.35 billion federal program which awards grant funding to states that demonstrate effective teaching through reform, has been an added incentive to improve student results.

Hawaii was awarded $75 million in the second round of the program, which concluded in August of 2010.  Up to $700 million was awarded by the program, although only the largest states, such as New York and Florida, were eligible for the biggest grants.

Though Hawaii has shown educational success, the state still has a long way to go to craft a evaluation program that will ultimately help maximize both teacher and student potential in the classroom, she said.  Goe was quick, however, to praise one element of the state’s educational system: Collaboration between teachers, schools, administrators and unions. “This sort of collaboration is very powerful and something some other states could learn from,” she told legislators.

However, Hawaii has had challenges on that front too. The teachers’ union, the Hawaii State Teachers Association, which public school teachers must join, has filed a complaint against the state administration with the Hawai’i Labor Relations Board over the latest teacher compensation package.

In fact, just hours after her statement about cooperation, the State of Hawai’i filed its response to the Hawai’i State Teacher Association’s complaint to the Hawai’i Labor Relations Board.  Afterward, Gov. Neil Abercrombie, Department of Education Schools Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi and Board of Education Chairman Don Horner issued the following joint statement:

“The Attorney General has provided details of how the state bargained in good faith for many months to reach agreement with negotiators representing teachers. Our focus remains on working together with educators and parents to make this upcoming school year a truly outstanding one for Hawai’i’s students.”





  1. It’s a shame that there’s no procedure to evaluate the parenting of these students and the effect that a lack of parenting has on a student’s achievements.

  2. As with curriculum, methods of instruction, and teacher credential requirements, so also with teacher evaluation methods; “What works?” is an empirical question which only an experiment can answer. In public policy this means a variety of policy regimes: federalism and local school boards or a competitive market in goods and services. The Legislature helped the HSTA/HGEA/UHPA/UPW cartel perpetuate its fraud upon taxpayers and students when it killed Governor Lingle’s bil to break the DOE into multiple school districts. Public sector unions dominate the Legislature. Real reform is nowhere on the horizon.
    It does not take 12 years at $12,000 per pupil-year to teach a normal child to read and compute. Most vocational training occurs more effectively on the job than in a classroom. State (government, generally) provision of History, Civics, and Economics instruction is a threat to democracy, just as State operation of newspapers and electronic broadcast news media would be (and are, in totalitarian countries).
    Homeschool. Nothing in Hawaii Revised Statutes requires that homeschool instruction occur between 0800 and 1430. You can legally extend daycare to age 17 and take the GED,

    • Another local news source says that Ms Goe was paid by the union to do her show and tell. If they are using their own people to improve evaluation, then it is all a sham. Ms Goe, it is reported, is an advisor to NEA and AFT, which puts her solidly in the union camp.
      More smoke and mirrors. But hey! it’s for the keiki, right?

  3. “Goe also told state legislators that with Hawaii’s limited resources, setting up an evaluation systems will take time, money and personnel to execute properly.” Has Ms Goe seen a copy of the DOE budget?

  4. Eddie writes better articles than most reporters on the Star Advertiser, which is now about to charge a subscription for their on-line version. Imagine that!

  5. Great article, and good to see you fidelity and WahiawaCentral. Shinton here. Just joined with a new user name…

    • Aloha Steve. I do believe we’re going to see a lot more of our compadres here soon.

      • LOL just got blocked from the SA comments section. Don’t really know why except for a comment made to “Guest” that I would sooner pay to be here than over there. Plenny posts still up calling the SA a “rag” and such. Hmmmmm. Great to be here, though and look forward to moving ahead.

  6. Hi Steve,

    Good to see you too!

    I hope this organization benefits a lot from SA defections. Let the market place decide the best product!

      • There have been a lot of comments removed over at the SA today. Like you, I’ve been sent to the woodshed. I was also posting something about ‘guest’ that some moderator didn’t like, even though it was the truth.

        A number of comments about other sites to log onto were also disappeared.

        Isn’t childish censorship grand? But, that’s the progressive way.

      • byDiamondHead has just been banned at the Star Advertiser……..I guess for commenting on the purge………
        “All animals are equal! Except, some are more equal than others!”
        SA has shown its true colors.

  7. Speaking of education – I learned something that should be of benefit to us all.

    In the comments section here if your reply doesn’t pertain to the article, there is no ‘reply’ option available. This will cut way down on off topic threads that we used to see over at SA.

  8. Aloha all!
    Good to see those that got banned for silly reasons.
    Here’s to the Hawaii reporter! Salute!

    As far as the education goes, Break up the huge bureaucracy, each island has it’s own district, and can make its own decisions.

    Merit pay would be a good start to fixing the problems.

  9. I agree with Goe's input! I think he knows what he's talking about. We should determine how good a teacher is by relying on hard, factual evidence.

Comments are closed.