Race to the Top

Hawaii answered a challenge from the U.S. Department of Education with an ambitious plan to ensure students have access to a high-quality education that prepares them for college and career. In August 2010, Hawaii’s bold education plan was awarded a four-year, $75 million federal Race to the Top grant — one of only 12 awarded in the country. In 2014, Hawaii became the only state to complete the requirements of the grant on time.


Hawaii's race

Hawaii set an aggressive timetable to ensure that every child in the state receives a quality education and that each public school graduate is college- and career-ready and equipped with the skills to succeed.

The state established a comprehensive plan to meet ambitious student achievement goals by building on a decades-long commitment to education reform and mobilizing broad stakeholder support. Hawaii’s Race to the Top plan aligns with the Department and Hawaii State Board of Education’s Strategic Plan and national priorities.

Hawaii’s Race includes a detailed roadmap to raise student achievement from early childhood through postsecondary education. It maps out a comprehensive five-point plan focused on:

  1. Establishing high-quality college- and career-ready standards and assessments.
    Standards-based instruction has led to substantial growth in student achievement for several years. The Department has implemented Hawaii Common Core Standards, which were developed through a state-led initiative to create a clear, common set of learning expectations that build in complexity at each grade level. In School Year 2014-15, Hawaii transitioned to a new assessment system, the Smarter Balanced Assessment, which aligns to Common Core. Related efforts:
  2. Improving longitudinal data collection and use.
    Hawaii’s education reform plan calls for rapid access to current and longitudinal data that can be used to monitor student progress, identify effective teaching practices and inform decision-making at the classroom, school and system levels. Teachers and administrators today have access to a web-based dashboard that generates longitudinal data reports that apply diverse indicators to more than two decades of individual student records. This reporting tool boasts more than 100 different metrics and reports, a number that is expected to double by 2014. Related Race efforts:
  3. Cultivating, rewarding, and leveraging effective teaching and leading.
    Teachers have the greatest impact on student success in the classroom. Principals, meanwhile, play a significant role in creating the conditions for teachers to effectively deliver instruction. Hawaii has designed a fair and reliable systems to support and evaluate teachers in improving their skills to ensure all students benefit from the best teaching practices. They include the Educator Effectiveness System for teachers and the Comprehensive Evaluation System for School Administrators for principals.

  4. Providing targeted support to struggling schools and students.
    A key focus of Hawaii’s Race to the Top agenda rests on a commitment to close achievement gaps, turn around persistently low-performing schools and ensure all students are prepared for college, career and citizenship. The Department established two Zones of School Innovation (ZSI) to target support for struggling schools in rural or remote, hard-to-staff areas serving the largest population of native Hawaiian and economically-disadvantaged students in the state. Five of the state’s six “Priority Schools” – five percent of the state’s lowest-performing schools – are in the ZSI, which includes the communities of Nanakuli and Waianae in west Oahu, and in Kau, Keaau, and Pahoa in east Hawaii.

  5. Aligning organizational functions to support reform outcomes.​ The Department is building capacity and aligning planning to monitor performance in a culture of continuous improvement. The Department has reorganized its structure to better support systemic reform efforts and ensure federal funds are aligned to support all programs. The goal is to create a performance-focused organizational culture, while engaging with the community to ensure the involvement of all stakeholders. Related Race efforts:

USDOE Reports

AIR Evaluations

In ​the News

  • ​Hawaii regains footing after early stumbles on Race to the Top | Education Week
    Consider Hawaii the come-from-behind character in the Obama administration's Race to the Top story. "Lots of folks sort of scoffed when we invested in Hawaii through Race to the Top. ... Hawaii, to their tremendous credit, has proved a lot of skeptics wrong," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, praising Hawaii's significant improvement on the National Assessment of Education Progress. [VIEW]

Contact Information

Stephen Schatz

Phone: 808-586-3800

Email: stephen_schatz@hawaiidoe.org


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