New standards will test teachers and students


New standards will test teachers and students, NEA official says

By Nanea Kalani

The superintendent of schools says teachers will get more training to teach at a higher level.

Hawaii’s public school teachers have started teaching to higher academic benchmarks known as the Common Core, a sweeping set of nationally crafted standards for language arts and math.

The standards, adopted by 46 states and the District of Columbia, lay out what students should know and be able to do by the end of each grade, with the aim of better preparing them for college and careers.

How well teachers teach to the Common Core — and how well students grasp it — will be key next school year, when standardized tests will be “aligned” to the Common Core.

The standards are “clearer and more rigorous” than existing academic standards in most states, a 2010 study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education policy think tank, concluded. The study rated Hawaii’s previous language arts and math standards as “mediocre” and “clearly inferior” to the Common Core.

Bill Raabe, director of the National Education Association’s Center for Great Public Schools, said implementation will be key to meeting the goals of the initiative.

“The Common Core was a state-led effort to really put in place the kinds of standards that we want to use to ensure students are ready for college, if that’s their choice, or their careers, or both — to have our public schools system in a place where it’s preparing all kids for success,” Raabe said, speaking Wednesday to the Hawaii Business Roundtable.

He said the National Education Association — a national teachers union of which the Hawaii State Teachers Association is a state affiliate — wants to help ensure teachers are prepared.

“Developing the standards themselves was the easy part,” he said. “Implementing this — ensuring that teachers are prepared, the curriculum is right for teaching to the standards, the assessments are testing what’s being taught, ensuring that we’re taking what we’re learning from the assessments and designing meaningful professional development — all of that is an important piece.”

New standardized tests will be implemented in the 2014-15 school year. Two groups are currently developing the tests: the Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium and the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. Hawaii is part of the first group.

Also beginning that school year, student test scores will factor into teacher performance evaluations, with pay raises and other personnel consequences, such as termination, tied to teachers’ ratings.

The Hawaii State Teachers Association, representing about 12,000 teachers, acknowledged that some members aren’t prepared.

“What Common Core does is it provides us a template, some targets that are clear: This is what all of our teachers need to be able to do,” said HSTA Executive Director Al Nagasako. “It also brings to light the fact that you’ve got teachers that are not qualified or not ready yet to teach at that level,” he said, adding that “we’re not about holding on to bad teachers.”

“What will it take? Resources to get our teachers up to par to be able to teach at that high level,” Nagasako said, citing professional development and jointly developed teaching strategies.

Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi said additional professional development days for teachers are included in the contract that took effect this year “because of the hard work of implementing all of the reforms that the state is going through.” She also said the state has been “pushing resources out to schools,” including assigning a Common Core resource person to each school complex area.