Two Molokai Schools Make the Grade

Federal assessment results show some progress.

Even in the face of furloughs, two Molokai schools – Maunaloa and Kualapu`u Elementary – met adequate yearly progress (AYP) benchmarks in math and reading scores this year. Kaunakakai Elementary landed on the cusp, missing its goal by only 1 percent.

“All the schools worked really hard,” said Complex Area Superintendent Lindsay Ball. “It was nice to see some improvements made.”

Every year, public schools across the country are given assessments mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind Act to measure reading and math proficiency, graduation rates and other criteria. Schools must meet a higher standard each year to show they are making progress toward the goal of having 100 percent proficiency in reading and math by 2014.

In order to meet the standards for AYP this year, schools had to show 58 percent of their students were proficient at reading, and 46 percent were proficient at math.

Kaunakakai Elementary needed to make AYP this year to get out of restructuring – a sanction that involves severe intervention by the state if a school fails to meet the standards several years in a row.  Instead, Kaunakakai missed the mark by one category.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Principal Janice Espiritu. She filed a request to appeal the results and will be notified whether the school’s status has been reversed pending re-evaluation by Aug. 27.

Espiritu referred to AYP as a rollercoaster ride, with the struggle of meeting standards one year, and falling behind the next year.

“It’s difficult, but the main thing is the scores have shown growth,” Espiritu said. “Our students have either improved or maintained their learning through the years.”

In the last seven years, Kaunakakai’s scores have jumped 33 percent in reading and 45 percent in math.

“There has been continuous improvement,” Espiritu said. “That’s what counts.”

The Upside
While some school principals were disappointed with the results, others felt relief.

“Yea!” exclaimed Kualapu`u School Principal Lydia Trinidad.

Kualapu`u – a conversion charter and the largest of four public elementary schools on Molokai – saw ratings go up this year, meeting AYP and receiving an unconditional good standing status. This means Kualapu`u continuously met state standards and will not be subject to any sanctions.

Kualapu`u was lifted from restructuring after making AYP for the last two years. Trinidad said the students had a 6 percent gain in reading this year, and 14 percent gain in math. She attributes the recovery to her faculty identifying “bubble kids,” or kids who fall in the middle and need help in specific areas.

“We tried to focus on those students’ individual needs,” she said, “We also remained firm to our math and reading programs. We stuck to the structure.”

Trinidad said although the school will use the same approach next year, the format of the assessment will change to online-based tests. The students will have three opportunities to take the tests and meet proficiency in 2011.

“I think [the students] will do fine,” she added. “They’re already taking online reading tests and get practice through their computer classes.”

Maunaloa – Molokai’s smallest elementary school – also made AYP and unconditional good standing status this year.

Measure of Success

While there were three other schools besides Kaunakakai which did not make AYP this year, school officials say it doesn’t mean schools are lagging in providing good education.

Kilohana Principal Richard Stevens said although his school’s scores took a small dip, he was shocked they didn’t take a greater hit by the 17 statewide furlough days.

Kilohana had a 7 percent drop in reading and 5 percent drop in math, which resulted in a “pending” good standing status since the school met its benchmarks last year.

“These tests are a measure of a student’s success to very specific areas,” Stevens said. “But when you’re dealing with an individual, you’re dealing with different talents and challenges.”

Still, Stevens said the school will continue to work on bringing up the scores by giving individual attention to the students and identifying the struggles.

“At the end of the day, the test shouldn’t dictate what a child learns,” he said. “It’s about what’s best for the children, and how to give them the best education.”

Neither Molokai Middle School (MMS) nor Molokai High School (MHS) met AYP this year, as well. Both schools are still in restructuring.

MMS Acting Principal Denise Kelly, who was the high school’s acting principal last year, said students still improved their scores this year, with reading up to 52 percent, and math 39 percent.

“It’s been a slow increase,” she said. “It’s better than backsliding.”

Kelly said it seemed furloughs had a major impact on MHS’ plunging scores.

“There may have been weeks when students did not have a math class,” she said. “For instance, for five days straight.”

Kelly said MHS teachers remain steadfast and dedicated to teaching students and ensuring they have a well-rounded education.

Whether it’s frustration or celebration on the minds of faculty, they are still looking ahead to 2011, when schools will face higher benchmarks of 72 percent reading proficiency and 64 percent math proficiency.

“These are high expectations for kids,” Stevens said. “And an ambitious goal by the government.”


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