Big Island Strive HI test scores overall still below standard

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Fewer Hawaii Island public school students met grade-level standards on state tests last year than their counterparts statewide, according to new data from Hawaii’s Strive HI Performance System.


Fewer Hawaii Island public school students met grade-level standards on state tests last year than their counterparts statewide, according to new data from Hawaii’s Strive HI Performance System.

The state Department of Education released scores for the 2016-17 school year last week.

Results show about 34 percent of public school students islandwide met or exceeded standards in math, roughly on par with the 2015-16 school year. In science, about 40 percent of Big Island students met grade-level standards last year, compared to about 38 percent the year prior. English language arts proficiency was 42 percent, compared to about 44 percent in 2015-16.

Percentages are rounded and calculated as mean averages of traditional Hawaii Island schools. They do not include charter schools. Ke Kula O Ehunuikaimalino also is excluded from the averages because it was not included in the Tribune-Herald’s calculated averages last year.

About 49 percent of Hawaii Island student scores in math, science and language arts improved — or remained flatlined — over the year prior. In the 2015-16 school year, about 60 percent of year-over-year scores improved or stayed the same.

Similar to the 2015-16 school year, Big Island student performance overall trailed behind state averages in all subjects. State proficiency averages were: 42 percent for math (the same as the year prior), 50 percent for language arts (down from 51 percent) and 46 percent for science (up from 42 percent in 2015-16).

A handful of island schools made notable gains. Among them was E.B. de Silva Elementary School, where students achieved higher year-over-year scores in every subject area and scored well above state and complex area averages.

“This school has been one that transcribes to excellence for all students from Day One,” de Silva Principal Dennis O’Brien told the Tribune-Herald regarding the improvement, adding he still wants to see de Silva math scores increase further. “And thanks to the administrators and teachers since, that’s been unbroken. There’s always been a commitment to excellence at this school and fortunately we’ve never faltered from that.”

Kohala High School also saw year-over-year improvement in every subject area. Principal Janette Snelling attributed success to Kohala’s standards-based grading system which promotes teaching to meet learning goals as opposed to teaching to perform well on tests. Snelling said she would like to see progress continue.

“We’re happy and thrilled scores went up,” Snelling said. “For me, as principal, it’s my responsibility to not let test scores be the enemy (as they are) in some instances … They provide important data on how we’re doing. (Higher scores) are encouraging and it’s a testament of how our instruction has improved and made a difference and that’s more important to us in the long term than the one-time score for us.”

Strive HI was launched in the 2012-13 school year as the state’s locally designed performance system. It tracks school performance and progress and includes test scores, graduation rates, college enrollment, reading levels and chronic absenteeism, defined as the number of students who miss at least 15 days of school in a year.

Language arts and math scores are based off the Smarter Balanced Assessment. Science scores are from the Hawaii State Assessment in Science.

Strive HI initially was instituted via a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law. The system was modified earlier this year partly to address new requirements under the Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced No Child Left Behind and the state’s waiver. The ESSA law requires full implementation this school year.

New Strive HI results also report performance of “high-needs” students — English learners, low-income and those with special needs. State education leaders pushed to make closing the achievement gap between “high needs” and “non-high needs” students a priority in recent years.

In the Ka‘u-Keaau-Pahoa Complex Area, about 32 percent of high-needs students were considered proficient in language arts (compared to 62 percent of traditional students), according to mean calculated averages of data provided. About 25 percent were proficient in math (compared to about 49 percent of traditional students). Five of nine Ka‘u-Keaau-Pahoa schools did not report averages for traditional students.

In the Hilo-Waiakea Complex Area, about 37 percent of high-needs students met standards in language arts (compared to about 69 percent of traditional students) and 29 percent in math (compared to 63 percent of traditional students).

In the Honokaa-Kealakehe-Kohala-Konawaena Complex Area, 35 percent of high-needs students met standards in language arts (compared to about 61 percent of traditional students) and about 28 percent in math (non-high-needs students averaged 49 percent proficiency).

Some schools have more high-needs students and thus have a greater hurdle.

For example, just 1 percent of de Silva students are English language learners and 35 percent qualify for subsidized meals. For comparison, 30 percent of Naalehu Elementary School students are English learners and the vast majority of Naalehu students qualify for free or reduced meals.

Email Kirsten Johnson at

To view full Strive Hi results for a specific school:

1. Visit

2. Click “School Finder” located under the subsection titled “2016-17 Reports.”

3. Type the name of your school into the search bar.

4. Click “Read More” under the school name.

5. Scroll to the subsection titled “Strive HI report” and click “2016-17 Report.” Reports from past years also can be found here.

Broken down by complex area, proficiency rates in the 2016-17 year were:

(mean rounded averages for all schools excluding charter schools. Percentages in parenthesis are the averages the Tribune-Herald calculated in the 2015-16 school year):

Hilo-Waiakea Complex Area

Math: 40 percent (about the same)

Language Arts: 48 percent (52 percent)

Science: 45 percent (about the same)

Ka‘u-Keaau-Pahoa Complex Area

Math: 27 percent (28 percent)

Language Arts: 34 percent (37 percent)

Science: 31 percent (30 percent)

Honokaa-Kealakehe-Kohala-Konawaena Complex Area

Math: 35 percent (about the same)


Language Arts: 44 percent (45 percent)

Science: 45 percent (42 percent)

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