Six reasonable public school reforms

For the 2008-2009 school year, the Department of Education (DOE) managed a $2.246 billion budget (2009 Superintendent’s Annual Report) to educate 177,871 enrolled students.

Yet Hawaii’s public schools are underperforming. For No Child Left Behind, only 65% of public school students met proficiency objectives in reading, and only 45% met proficiency objectives in math (State of Hawaii NCLB School Report, School Year 2008-2009). Education Week grades Hawaii public schools a C, with D in K-12 Achievement (“Education Week’s Quality Counts 2010”).

Here are six reasonable ideas to reform our public schools:

1. Get rid of excess union bargaining units. Hawaii should only negotiate with two unions: one representing teachers and principals, and the other representing administrators and support staff. With only two benefits packages, for 12-month employees and 10-month employees, Hawaii could save money on payroll and administration costs. Why do we need so many bargaining units, each with their own sets of benefits? How can school administrators keep up with all of the payroll codes and plans?

2. Reassign teachers and principals at underperforming schools. If a school can’t meet performance benchmarks, we need to replace the teachers and the principal. Some teachers could be reassigned to new schools; others may ask for a mentor to help them improve their teaching skills.

3. Offer bonuses to high-performing teachers who are willing to relocate to an underperforming school and mentor a teacher there. This will raise the performance of teachers at all schools.

4. Convert more public schools to charter schools. Let students and their parents decide which school is best for them. Let school administrators have more control over teachers, budgets, and facilities.

5. Give principals more control over hiring teachers. Letting principals choose the teachers they want to teach at their school – and letting them choose who will not teach at their school – could improve school performance. The best teachers would be rewarded, while unmotivated or ineffective teachers would have an incentive to improve their teaching skills. As a CEO, how effective could you be if you couldn’t hire and fire your employees?

6. Design more accurate performance reports. For example, graduation drop-out rates include students who transfer between Hawaii schools (but who actually graduate); and test scores include the 19,504 “English Language Learners” (ELLs), who make up 11% of the student body (2009 Superintendent’s Annual Report). Yes, we need to evaluate the performance of all students; but we should not penalize an entire school for enrolling a large number of non-English speakers.

These are just a few ideas for motivating teachers, principals, and schools. How else can we give Hawaii children a competitive education?

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3 Comments on “Six reasonable public school reforms”


  1. Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!

    Cheers
    Christian, iwspo.net


  2. Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!

    Cheers
    Christian,Diet Guide!


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