Unfortunately, Hawai‘i is currently not on track towards these goals—which is why we were not awarded federal “Race to the Top” dollars. Slashing 17 days from the school year also decreased our chances.
Aside from the mandate for teacher furloughs, our state law that caps the number of charter schools also hurt our application. In my discussions with state legislators, they have stated that since charter school students have not scored appreciably higher on NCLB math and reading tests, there is no urgency to support charter schools. I have pointed out, in conversations with both Hawai‘i lawmakers and with the assistant secretary of U.S. Department of Education, that NCLB testing doesn’t adequately evaluate children on all important skills. Constant testing also creates a stressful, unpleasant learning environment, which can adversely impact a child’s desire to learn for life.
Appropriate comparison of charter and regular Department of Education [DOE] schools would also include more global criteria. According to Hawai‘i Charter School Administrative Office, some of its students come from backgrounds of multi-generational poverty, drug abuse and incarceration. These children, because they have attended charter schools (which generally teach a more varied, holistic, culturally relevant curriculum), have become the first generation to transcend this vicious cycle. On the other end of the spectrum, students who are preparing to become entrepreneurs and community leaders have been provided with well-rounded schooling—which has helped many to be sought after by top universities.