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High School Boosts Scores

Molokai High School principal Stan Hao may have green, spiked hair by the end of the school year. That was a promise he made to his students if they met certain levels of improvement in the Hawaii State Assessment (HAS) tests this year. And it’s looking hopeful for them.

“Students have shown marked improvement in testing scores over the past year,” said Hao.

Since last year, HSA math scores have nearly doubled at MHS – from 15 percent in 2011 to 27 percent in 2012, according to Hao. In reading, students have also improved – from 48 percent last year to 51 percent this year. Those values are based on state-wide benchmarks known as Annual Measureable Objectives, or AMOs. The goal is for each school to reach 100 percent proficiency in both math and reading by 2014.

HSA scores are used to determine a school’s Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in the nationwide No Child Left Behind initiative. There are two ways for a school to make AYP: abide to scheduled benchmarks of improved HSA scores, which call for 72 percent proficiency in reading and 64 percent proficiency in math for this year (leading up to 100 percent in 2014), or an improvement of 10 percent in students who did not score proficient the previous year – a value known as “safe harbor.”

“I think it’s safe to say we have made ‘safe harbor,’” said Hao. That’s the improvement mark at which he told students he would die his hair green.

And the year isn’t over yet. Students have taken two HSAs so far, and a third one is upcoming. This allows students several opportunities to improve their scores. If they score at proficient levels, they have the option to not take subsequent tests that year – or they can retake it to improve their scores, Hao said.

In high school, students only take the HSA in 10th grade. It’s also administered to students in third through eighth grades.

“This is a really capable class,” said Hao, speaking of this year’s sophomores. “[They] want to challenge themselves and each other.”

Hao and MHS teachers credit improved HSA scores this year to several factors.

This is the first year the school has been partnering with Hawaii EDISON Alliance, a subgroup of the EdisonLearning company. The Alliance partners with Hawaiian schools struggling to meet national testing standards, and attempts to raise students’ scores through professional development, achievement systems and more, according to its website. Edison has been working with MHS teachers and students on a weekly basis, and administering monthly benchmark tests to give students immediate feedback on both their strengths and weaknesses.

The monthly benchmarks can be “a good predictor of what students will end up with on HSA,” said Hao.

In addition, MHS faculty and staff have been partnering with individual students who are on the brink of meeting HAS proficiency levels to help them work on target areas and boost their scores.

Hao said the student he partnered with would brag to his friends about working with the principal – it “gives a positive spin to the position,” he said. Other students not targeted for these relationships with faculty have expressed interest in being included in the program, and Hao said they may consider expanding it to all students in the future.

MHS records on the Department of Education website go back to the 2001-2002 school year, and since then, MHS has not once met AYP standards. If Hao gets green hair this year, it means the school will be one step closer to making that goal in the future.


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