Hawaii is ahead of President’s call to reduce testing in schools


Last school year, the HIDOE performed a review of all of the assessments required by the state. Supt. Kathryn Matayoshi and Deputy Stephen Schatz listened to concerns from the field. As a result, HIDOE streamlined the state requirements for testing students for this school year.

​​​HONOLULU – Last school year, the Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) performed a review of all of the assessments required by the state. Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi and Deputy Stephen Schatz listened to concerns from the field, including administrators and teachers, and held discussions with the Hawaii State Teachers Association. As a result, HIDOE streamlined the state requirements for testing students for this school year.

"We made significant changes to reduce the amount of testing in our schools this year," stated Superintendent Matayoshi. "Teaching and learning is the primary mission of our schools and our work. Tests play a role in supporting teaching and learning, but that role must be balanced with the critical importance of instruction and student supports."​

HIDOE eliminated the requirement for five tests and has proposed eliminating an additional required test. Actions to reduce testing for this school year (2015-16) include:

  • Ended mandatory statewide requirement for three End of Course exams for the 2015-16 school year. This means that the state no longer requires that high school students take a 60- to 90-minute test at the end of their Algebra 1, Algebra 2, and U.S. History courses.  
  • Ended mandatory statewide requirement for ACT exams in grades 9 and 10. This reduced testing for high school freshman and sophomores by four hours per student in each grade. (ACT for grades 8-10 are voluntary for schools to select.)
  • Proposed to U.S. Department of Education to eliminate the statewide requirement for grade 8 ACT test, which is a readiness measure in the Strive HI Performance System for middle schools. This would reduce testing of 8th graders by 3.5 hours/student.

In July 2015, Superintendent Matayoshi sent a letter to the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium expressing concern about the "burden of test administration during the spring testing window and the time required for testing." Matayoshi will be reiterating the call for more streamlined Smarter Balanced testing at a meeting of all state superintendents next month.

The Smarter Balanced Assessments (SBA) in mathematics and English Language Arts/Literacy are aligned to the Hawaii Common Core Standards, and designed to measure whether students are "on track" for readiness in college and/or career. These are mandatory assessments given to students in grades 3-8 and 11. On average, tested students in Hawaii took 7 hours to complete the tests. The test is not timed; students are given appropriate time to answer all questions.

Required state assessments for 2015-16:​

AssessmentContent AreaGrade LevelsTesting Time

Smarter Balanced

(aligned to Hawaii Common Core)

English Language Arts/Literacy



3-8, 11Based on time that a student needs to complete the test. Average: 7 hours (total-both subjects)
Hawaii State Assessment in Science (aligned to Hawaii Content and Performance Standards III)



Biology I End of Course Exam


4 and 8


High school

1.5 hours


1.5 hours

ACT Exam (nationally benchmarked college entrance exam)English, Mathematics, Reading, Science, Writing 114 hours

ACT Aspire Exam (replaces ACT EXPLORE Exam)*


English, Mathematics, Reading, Science, Writing83.5 hours

National Assessment of Educational Progress

(approx. 2,300 students per subject per grade)



4 and 8

Odd numbered years

1 hour per subject

*Anticipate approval from U.S. Department of Education to make this optional in 2015-16

The state also requires alternative assessments for special needs students, and a Hawaiian language SBA for grades 3-4 in Kaiapuni Hawaiian immersion schools.

Hawaii's 8th grade and 11th grade students take the most state required tests, but the testing time is less than in other states/districts, according to a Council of Great City Schools' study released earlier this month.

Grade 812 hours25.3 hours
Grade 1111 hours22.5 hours


Students also take other tests in school. These are primarily "formative assessments" that teachers use to inform instruction and monitor student learning throughout the year. Schools also may choose to use the optional End of Course or ACT exams if they support the school's educational program (e.g., a high school using the End of Course exam as a final exam for a class, ACT Aspire exam to inform students' Personal Transition Plans, etc.) Students may also elect to take Advanced Placement exams on their own for college credit.

Learn more about HIDOE's tests at: http://www.hawaiipublicschools.org/TeachingAndLearning/Testing

Recently, President Barack Obama underscored the importance of a Testing Action Plan in a video message: https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2015/10/26/open-letter-americas-parents-and-teachers-lets-make-our-testing-smarter You can share your thoughts on how to "Make Testing Smarter" on that post.

HIDOE officials look forward to learning more details on the recommended Testing Action Plan from the U.S. Department of Education.

"We are committed to keep the conversation moving in a direction that supports schools and ensures student success," said Superintendent Matayoshi.



​Supt's Corner​Read Supt. Kathryn Matayoshi's column in the November issue of Education Update for her take on testing in schools.

Contact Information

Communications Branch

Phone: (808) 784-6200

Email: doeinfo@k12.hi.us


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