The Hawaii State Department of Education has received notification from the U.S. Department of Education that its Race to the Top (RTTT) grant is no longer considered “high-risk” and is in good standing.
“This is great news that validates the good work that’s been done by the teachers, educational leaders and our community partners,” Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi said. “The transformation of our public schools is in full swing. We are staying the course in our mission to ensure all students graduate from our public schools prepared for college and careers.”
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sent a letter to Gov. Neil Abercrombie informing him of the USDOE’s acknowledgement of the major progress that Hawaii has and continues to make.
“The commitment made by the Hawaii State Department of Education to get to where it is today speaks for itself and I congratulate all of those involved for a job well done,” Abercrombie said. “It is clear that transformation in our education system is taking place at all levels from the Board of Education meeting room to the classroom.”
In August 2010, the USDOE awarded Hawaii with a four-year $75 million RTTT grant. Hawaii was placed on high-risk status in December 2011. The DOE spent two years making significant progress, which later led to the removal of high-risk status in two of its Assurance Areas, including B (Standards and Assessments) and C (Data Systems).
The high-risk status remained in Assurance Areas A (System Alignment and Performance Monitoring), D (Great Teachers, Great Leaders), and E (Turning Around Persistently Low-Achieving Schools).
In February 2013, the DOE received recognition for a number of major accomplishments and was also praised for implementing important reforms, including programs to support educator effectiveness.
The announcement of total removal of high-risk allows Hawaii to continue its RTTT reform efforts through September 2014 when the grant officially ends.
Key improvement areas in the DOE’s transformation efforts include:
* Aligned state, complex area and school planning and monitoring. This allows for a cohesive system at all levels focused on shared goals for students. From the strategic plan to the school’s academic plans and evaluations of educators, administrators and teachers are tracking students to ensure all graduate college and career ready.
* Worked with union partners to formalize new evaluation systems for teachers and principals.
* Improved communication both internally and externally. Earlier this month, the DOE launched its new website and is in the process of establishing an intranet service for staff that allows for increased exchange of information. The DOE also provided clarity of roles, responsibilities, and vision both within our system and in the community.
The 2013-14 school year begins Aug. 5. The DOE remains firm in its strategic goals in setting targets for multiple progress indicators that show progress towards student achievement.
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Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard praised the decision by the U.S. Department of Education to remove Hawaii’s “High Risk” grant designation and allows the state to continue receiving $75 million in Race to the Top grant funding.
The congresswoman released the following statement about the announcement:
“I am encouraged that the U.S. Department of Education has recognized our schools are making changes that will serve all of our keiki. I recently visited five of Hawaii’s Race to the Top schools in West Oahu and Hawaii Island and saw firsthand the hard work our local schools have done to improve our students’ education and prospects for success. As Hawaii moves into the last year of its Race to the Top grant, I look forward to continued improvement and sustained support for improving our schools across the islands.”