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Big Isle schools rank among top


Tribune-Herald staff writer

Three Big Island public schools are among the top-ranked institutions in the state, according to the Hawaii Department of Education’s newest Strive HI performance standards.

E.B. DeSilva Elementary, Waters of Life Charter, and Konawaena Elementary schools were among a total of 14 schools across Hawaii classified at the top of a five-tiered ranking system announced Monday. The first tier schools are classified as “Recognition Schools.”

Waters of Life earned additional recognition, being the only charter school in the state to be ranked in the top tier.

An additional 40 Hawaii Island schools were in the second tier, exhibiting “Continuous Improvement.” Nine fell under the third tier identifying schools that need to show more improvement, called “Focus Schools,” while three schools were named “Priority Schools.” The lowest tier, known as the “Superintendent’s Zone,” does not yet contain any of the schools across the state.

The lowest performing schools on Hawaii Island, listed as Priority Schools, included Hawaii Academy of Arts & Science, Ka Umeke Kaeo, and Nawahiokalaniopuu Iki charter schools. Despite Waters of Life’s success, charter schools in general made up an unusually high proportion of the lowest-ranked schools, taking eight of the bottom 14 spots in the Priority Schools tier.

The new performance monitoring system focuses on college and career readiness, DOE officials said, as opposed to the standardized test scores which formed the basis of the No Child Left Behind performance measurement system. It measures graduation rates, college attendance and other indicators of a school’s health.

“By valuing more than just test scores, we are taking a comprehensive look at the successes and challenges of schools,” said Deputy Superintendent Ronn Nozoe. “This wealth of data will allow educators, school leaders, parents and the community to have meaningful conversations about what is working and where they need to improve to prepare all students for college and careers.”

The rankings are based on data from the 2012-13 school year, DOE officials said.

In an interview Tuesday afternoon, Waters of Life Principal Daniel Caluya said he was once again proud for his school to be singled out for recognition.

“I’m really humbled by it,” he said. “The teachers are the ones who did the work. And the kids are the ones who did the work.”

Just a few short years ago, the story at Waters of Life was very different, when the school was on the verge of losing its charter following financial hardships. Since then, however, the school has shown remarkable growth, including three straight years of improvement on the Hawaii State Assessment test.

That regular improvement was really what made the difference in the school’s newest achievement, Caluya said.

“I think that’s the reason we scored so high,” he said. “Our school had come off of restructuring, and we’ve just managed to work our way from that. … That’s what put us across the finish line.”

Among the other revelations from the Strive HI scores:

• Hawaii’s public school students have narrowed the achievement gap by 12 percent over the past two years between “high-needs” students with disabilities, language barriers or low family income, as compared to the achievement of other students.

• Of the state’s 14 top-performing schools, more than half are Title I schools, meaning they overcame challenges associated with serving a large number of disadvantaged children from low-income families.

• A majority of the state’s lowest-performing schools made tremendous growth after receiving targeted supports in “Zones of School Innovation.”

• The on-time graduation rate of 83 percent and college enrollment rate of 63 percent have continued to steadily rise.

• Reading and math proficiency improved slightly. The percentage of students proficient in reading rose to 72 percent, from 71 percent a year ago, while math proficiency reached 60 percent from 59 percent.

“We are extremely pleased to see significant improvements statewide on key college- and career-readiness indicators as we set a higher bar for students, teachers, as well as ourselves as educational leaders,” said Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi. “The new Strive HI Performance System allows us to do a much better job of measuring, understanding and supporting school progress. The results are very encouraging and a testament to the hard work of our students and teachers.”

Email Colin M. Stewart at


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