Hawaii public education is striving high.
In the last year, we've received national recognition for
improvements in student outcomes in academics, attendance and more.
Educational organizations and community partners are well aware of this; however, it may come as a surprise to the general public.
We know that this growth did not happen overnight. This progress required consistent and courageous leadership throughout the department at every school, complex and state office, by each employee on the team and with the support of our community over the long haul.
Still, there is more to do to ensure all students benefit from their education, which is why we've engaged the community to define what student success looks like, and how we can best support that.
Our outreach ramped up this past spring, focusing on the review and extension of our Department of Education (DOE) and Board of Education (BOE)
Strategic Plan. The outreach effort included 108 focus groups with more than 1,200 students, parents, teachers, school leaders, support staff, legislators, community groups and others across the state, and more than 1,400 completed surveys.
Why all the effort? The Strategic Plan will guide responses to and input for federal law (the
Every Student Succeeds Act or ESSA, to be submitted to the U.S. Department of Education in 2017), BOE policies, state budget cycles, and more. It's crucial that everyone who cares about public education have a voice in this foundational plan for our schools and children.
Phase I outreach resulted in these community-driven definitions of student success, which will be used as the foundation of the Strategic Plan update — read the report. Students are:
- Giving back to the community, environment, and world.
- Discovering and pursuing their passions so they can reach their full potential.
- Demonstrating strong academic and soft skills, and showing an ability to think critically, solve problems, and apply knowledge to new situations or contexts.
- Being prepared for life after high school, including setting clear goals and developing short- and long-term engagement in learning.
- Exhibiting strength, confidence, and resilience in their everyday lives, and being generally healthy and happy.
- Gaining strong cultural understanding and appreciation for Hawai‘i.
Important in all this discussion about the future of education is what the students are clearly saying they want for themselves.
Each year, we survey our juniors as part of the statewide administration of the ACT test. The most recent survey shows that 69 percent of Hawaii's Class of 2017 wants to go to college. Yet, only 56 percent of the Class of 2015 enrolled. Notably, the most recent national report on job projections and education requirements through 2020 showed that 69 percent of jobs in Hawaii will require some post high school training or education.
We will use this feedback along with our ongoing review of student, school and system data, as well as larger themes resulting from the governor's ESSA team outreach, and improve upon the foundations that have been set by the hard work of our schools over the past several years.
The public can still participate in the Strategic Plan review —
Phase II outreach is beginning. BOE community meetings have been scheduled to allow community members to join the conversation and get updated on our progress. The BOE and DOE Strategic Plan update, along with state ESSA plan for federal funding, will guide our work for school year 2017-18 and beyond.
Every one of us is motivated to make a difference for our keiki. I'm confident that our unified effort will continue to move public education dramatically in the right direction for our children and for our state.
I hope our communities here at home appreciate how far we've come. As we strive higher, let's keep all children at the center of our thinking and decisions.