Looking Back, Moving Forward
MHS assesses achievement and areas for improvement
Classes are back in full swing at Molokai High School (MHS) as students returned to school on July 30. While last year saw monumental improvements in student achievement and academic success, there is still room for students, staff and teachers to grow, according to MHS Principal Stan Hao.
No Green Hair for Hao
At the start of last school year, Hao promised students that if they made the state Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) standards this year, he would dye his hair green and spike it. MHS failed to meet the benchmark this year, in large part due to a technical error, according to Hao.
In order to meet the safe harbor provision — another way to satisfy the proficiency percentage targets in reading and math under the federal No Child Left Behind law — a school must show 10 percent improvement from the prior year in test scores, as well as meet a certain percentage of graduate rates. Last year, MHS students improved 13 percent in reading –from 48 to 61 percent — and 21 percent in math –from 15 to 36 percent. With these improvements, MHS should have made AYP safe harbor value this year. However, this year’s graduation rate requirement was 82 percent, while MHS reported 78 percent.
Hao said that the graduation rate submitted was an error — the number reported actually applied to the class of 2011. A preliminary report showed a graduation rate for the class of 2012 to be 86 percent, accounting for 11 students with documentation that opted for alternative GED programs. Hao submitted an appeal to the Department of Education (DOE), but it was not accepted.
Still, Hao looks forward to the new school year, considering possible motivational options — among them, having his hair braided into cornrows or lengthened with extensions, he joked at the school community council (SCC) meeting last week.
“I didn’t dye my hair because technically we didn’t make AYP, but we definitely need to do something for [the students’] achievements,” said Hao.
A Busy Summer
While the students have been out for summer vacation, MHS has still been buzzing with improvements. Most notable among these is the establishing of two farms on campus -one commercial farm and one permaculture farm. The two projects were made possible by community partnerships –Monsanto helped clear the land, Mycogen provided irrigation, and grassroots organization Sust`aina ble Molokai put on education workshops for teachers and staff.
“We definitely have different models of agriculture now, which is important especially because we come from a plantation history,” said Hao. “We’re teaching students to look at agriculture as agribusiness, a viable option or way of living.” He hopes to secure a federal grant, “From the Garden to the Table,” that would allow MHS to use the food they grow in the cafeteria.
MHS also received support from 10 AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers this summer, many of whom were recent MHS graduates. In addition to mentoring MHS students for their senior projects, the volunteers cleaned and arranged classrooms and worked on establishing the permaculture farm, including the compost system, which will be used to recycle green waste for the campus and the community.
Moving Towards Where We Want to Be
MHS was recently awarded with a six-year accreditation by Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC),valid until June of 2018. The accreditation recognizes schools that meet an acceptable level of quality in accordance with WASC criteria, according to its website.
“Soon you will see the WASC flag flying at MHS, so it is another feather in our cap,” said Hao.
Another landmark accomplishment for MHS was a 100 percent promotion rate for the freshman class of 2015, with no students retained, which has not happened for as long as Hao can remember. Promotion to tenth grade is a clear indicator for high graduation rates, said Hao.
MHS’ continued success has been in large part due to the implementation of data teams, which the school plans on continuing this school year, according to Hao. The schedule will be adjusted so teachers will have a non-instructional period during the school day to meet in their teams, each that focus in one particular area –learning environment, pedagogy, family support, student support, leadership, assessment for learning and curriculum.
“It’s very exciting to be on a data team, because we get the biggest range of understanding of what we’re trying to do,” said MHS teacher Ric Ornellas. The data teams are designed to continuously improve the learning environment by building school-wide leaderships, instead of top-down leadership dictated by the principal.
That school-wide leadership model extends to the students as well. Every year, the SCC includes two student representatives to voice student concerns in school policy. This year’s representatives are Cara Connelly, 12th grade and Alex Gilliland, 10th grade.
“I want to get students more involved in the SCC and in making decisions for the school,” said Connelly at this month’s SCC meeting last week.