New legislation gives Hawaii more flexibility with testing in our schools

In December, President Obama announced “the Christmas Miracle”—that Congress had managed to pass the new “Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)” to replace the unpopular “No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).” This major change shifts authority from the federal DOE to state departments of education. Testing mandates may now be replaced by states with alternative programs and other flexibility will now enable states to customize testing and other solutions for their schools.

Local Support for Changes

When Governor Ige attended the National Governor’s Association meeting in the end of February, he arranged for the legislative director, Steven Parker, to come to Hawaii to provide important briefings on ESSA for the BOE, DOE, state legislators, and the public. The goal of the community presentations was to explain the purpose and potential in the ESSA, and several PPS-HI board members were able to attend one of these meetings.

Here is an excerpt and a chart summarizing changes from Steven Parker’s presentation to the Hawaii State Legislators, March 16, 2016.

“Under ESSA, we have a new vision: one that allows a more flexible approach to testing. Efforts to improve testing are under way across the country and ESSA provides additional flexibility and federal resources to support this work.

We can now have accountability systems based on multiple measures. We can now have state determined goals not federal ones.  States determine a school’s rating not the federal government. We have a mixed delivery system that allows for states to really have multiple assessments during a school year using portfolio based or observational assessments from teachers or educators who know the students and can tell what that student needs to succeed.  A state also has the option of allowing a substitution of a nationally recognized high school exam in place of the state exam.”



Educating the Public

In January, PPS-HI board members joined educators, decision makers, community members, and parents at the Hawaii School Empowerment conference, organized by the Education Institute of Hawaii, or EIH. The conference brought in the views of Finland’s Pasi Sahlberg, Diane Ravitch and others.

EIH has emerged over the past two years as a think tank created to empower teachers, principals and parents in pursuing education reform. It was formed by prominent, committed educators and is funded by the Mamoru and Aiko Takitani Foundation.

PPS-HI board members have participated in and benefitted from EIH-sponsored community meetings on the ESSA and issues in the HI DOE Strategic Plan. PPS-HI hopes to provide focus groups for parents following EIH presentations.

At the EIH ESSA meetings, participants gain a deeper awareness of the purpose and elements of the new law impacting Hawaii and all states. Additionally, there is an open forum and discussion on possible changes and implications for Hawaii students, teachers, principals, schools, and communities.

Department of Education’s Strategic Plan

The DOE also seeks community input on how their Strategic Plan should be adjusted and how the ESSA should be applied in Hawaii. PPS-HI is participating in these conversations and seeks to gather parent views to deliver to the DOE to ensure parent voices are included.

The EIH and the National Governor’s Association appear to envision more dynamic changes in education policy, test planning and teacher evaluation than the DOE.