3 things to know about Hawaii’s schools

It’s been one month since my son started second grade at a public school. We are slowly getting used to the morning routine, the new classroom, the new achievement standards, and another year of fundraising.

Our school has given us a lot of useful information, like the school calendar, lunch menu, after-school programs, events, fundraisers, and contact information. They hosted an Open House and are already scheduling parent-teacher conferences.

But there are three critical things I think all parents should know about Hawaii’s schools:

1. Tell us about teachers. Which grade levels, subjects, and schools have they have taught? How have their students performed on standardized tests compared to other teachers? I understand that there might be a concern about teachers’ privacy, but parents usually check references before hiring a baby-sitter or nanny.

2. Tell us about school programs. Who are the teachers and aides responsible for extracurricular programs, additional classes, and elective classes? What are their qualifications? If it’s a third-party vendor, how were they selected and what are their hiring policies? How do current and former students rate their programs?

3. Tell us about school leadership. What are the backgrounds of the principal and vice principal? Who is the complex leader and what is their background? How would teachers rate their leadership and management?

In addition, there’s one critical area that I think needs improvement:

* Show us survey results with better questions. Satisfaction surveys are too vague. Instead of asking students if they are “satisfied” with their education, ask whether they feel interested and challenged by their schoolwork. Instead of asking teachers if they are “satisfied” with school leadership, ask whether school leadership is accessible and supportive. Instead of asking parents if they are “satisfied” with the quality of the school, ask if their children are eager to go to school, engaged in schoolwork, and have a good relationship with their teachers.

What information do you wish you had about schools? How much information about teachers and teacher evaluations is it reasonable to share with parents? Does your school anticipate what you want to know?

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