In 2013, our fourth- and eighth-graders made among the highest gains in the nation in reading and math performance. More isle students are entering college and fewer graduates are requiring remediation in English and mathematics than in recent years.
We still have a ways to go, but we should all be proud of the progress so far.
Much of our students’ successes are linked to the extraordinary work of our educators. In fact, research shows that teachers have the greatest impact on student achievement, outside of family factors.
To support their efforts, Hawaii’s new statewide teacher evaluation and support system provides every teacher the timely and actionable feedback and support they need and deserve to improve their instruction to better serve students. We aimed high to design the best system possible based on national research, local data and teacher and principal feedback. While no system will be perfect, this approach of “striving high” is the new way of doing business in Hawaii public education.
The new Educator Effectiveness System (EES) includes multiple measures to better understand both teachers’ professional practice and their impact on student achievement.
Administrators work with teachers to establish learning goals; they meet before and after classroom observations to discuss their insights and the evidence of teacher practice. These steps are an essential part of providing quality feedback to teachers to inform their practice and to inform evaluation ratings.
In many ways, the EES requirements are not new. Principals have always been expected to observe classrooms and have robust conversations with teachers to review data, discuss improvements and support their professional growth.
So what is new? Administrators and teachers had to be trained on the new frameworks and tools, and we are monitoring closely to ensure fidelity of implementation. A lot more evidence is collected and discussed and the evaluation process happens more frequently, meaning administrators must spend more time in classrooms and with teachers. Early data from the first semester indicates that schools have embraced the process and are “getting it done.”
We knew the transition to a new, first-rate system would be bumpy. Change is hard but not a sufficient reason to back off of our commitment to deliver what our professionals need and deserve. As I talk to principals and teachers, they point out implementation challenges but also boast about the good conversations and culture improvements happening in their schools because of the new system. This is why we redeployed funds to provide six staffers to each complex area to support implementation of the state’s six priority strategies, including the EES. Each complex area now has a full-time staffer to help train and support administrators through the EES transition. It’s why we changed some implementation requirements based on principals’ feedback.
It is also why, this legislative session, we are requesting $14 million to fund the Weighted Student Formula (WSF), money allotted to principals to use at their discretion. The WSF is an equitable method to assign funds to schools based on enrollment and student needs. Having been a principal, I know how valuable these funds can be to implement new systems to the benefit of educators and students.
This is a journey. We set out to transform Hawaii’s public education system to provide a world-class education that prepares our students for college, careers and community involvement. We have raised expectations for students and educators and yet nearly every indicator shows student outcomes are on the rise.
If we stay the course, remove unnecessary barriers and burdens, and resource our priorities, we can and will continue to build on this momentum.