Sunday, May 22, 2016

Hawaii Cuts the Testing Cord

It can be done! This week the Hawaii Board of Education removed Big Standardized Test scores as a factor in teacher evaluation.

Coverage at the Hawaii Tribune-Herald was particularly descriptive of the problem the BOE was solving.

Formerly, teachers in Hawaii were beholden to curriculum and standards developed with little or none of their input by entities HSTA Secretary-Treasurer Amy Perruso described as “corporate philanthropists.” These entities, namely the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, have had sway in setting teacher performance standards, developed testing for those standards and profiting from the system, she said.

And you'll want to note Perruso's description of what had happened under the test-driven regulations:

"Taxpayers pay for public education, but an arrangement was set up where much of what used to be provided by the public education system was outsourced to consultants,” she explained. “Public money used to be used for public institutions, now it’s going to private companies. Teachers used to develop our own standards, now we pay for them. We used to do our own tests, now we pay for them.”

The move on testing became possible thanks to the opening provided by the new federal education law (ESSA) as well as a joint BOE-Hawaii State Teachers Association committee established by the last contract. That committee originated the recommendation to the BOE. BS Tests scores may still be used, but schools are now free to use a more flexible system as needed. BOE Vice Chairman Brian De Lima noted that teachers who were already found to be excellent could waste less of their time jumping through evaluation hoops while teachers in need of mentoring could get the help they needed.

I'd be curious to know how much this change was informed by Hawaii's ongoing teacher shortages; you may recall that just a month ago, the Hawaii Department of Education was off on a mainland recruitment tour. At the time they were forecasting 1,600 openings (striking because Hawaii is not, really, very big) and talking about one of the highest turnover rates in the country. Hawaii is a beautiful place, but most of it is actually very rural, and the cost of living is crushing.

In short, getting rid of teachers is not exactly the big policy challenge in Hawaiian education. So I like to think that at least one person in charge thought, "Well, we can't pay them a ton, and we can't fix the cost of living, but we can get rid of this stupid test-centered evaluation system."

Here's hoping that other states take note, and that the Hawaiian idea spreads.


  1. Wise state! I wish that would happen in CO! Tests are only for the greedy corporations--nothing to do with teaching, nor measuring student learning!

  2. OR, you could just be moving things along towards competency based education...

    1. You may very well be right. This is still a good step-- it's just necessary to pay attention to what happens next

  3. From their 2015 ESEA flexibility waiver (page 30):

    "As the State moves forward with implementation of the new diploma requirements, staff from OCISS, the Office of Strategic Reform (OSR), and the Systems Accountability Office (SAO) participated on two national workgroups related to competency-based opportunities for earning academic credit. OCISS and SAO staff also participate in the Smarter Balanced Proficiency-Based Learning Task Force. OSR staff represented Hawaii on Competency-Based Education Workgroup Achieve, Inc. facilitated."