HONOLULU - Hawaii missed major milestones during its first year of implementing reforms under a $75 million "Race to the Top" education grant, the U.S. Department of Education said.
Hawaii had difficulty hiring qualified staff in a timely manner and failed to hire staff to implement the reforms until the fall of 2011, the department said in a report released today on Hawaii's performance.
The state was also challenged by the leadership changes at the Board of Education and in the state government.
The report was one of 12 the department issued measuring how "Race to the Top" grantees did during the 2010-11 school year. Since the report only covered the year through last fall, it doesn't reflect two important developments since then.
It omits the U.S. Department of Education's admonishment last month of Hawaii's performance on the grant as "unsatisfactory," including a warning that Hawaii could lose almost the entire grant if the state didn't improve.
The report also didn't take into account an "agreement in principle" that the state and the Hawaii teachers' union reached on a labor contract Friday. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan acknowledged the labor agreement in a statement accompanying the report, however.
"Hawaii had a challenging year with several delays and little progress," Duncan said. "The recent collective bargaining agreement will play a critical role in making Hawaii's education reform plan possible. I commend their leaders for coming together to do what's best for students."
The report said the failure of the state and teachers union to agree on a contract meant Hawaii wasn't able to roll out a new teacher evaluation system. The state was also unable to implement incentives to recruit highly qualified teachers.
On the positive side, the report said the governor's office, the state education department, the Board of Education and school complex areas have improved their collaboration with one another. The state Legislature also helped reforms by passing key legislation giving the state the legal authority to reform teacher licensing and improve the state superintendent's authority to reform schools.
Donalyn Dela Cruz, a spokeswoman for Gov. Neil Abercrombie, said the state is addressing the performance issues indicated in the report.
Abercrombie spoke with Duncan on Monday, and Duncan was very pleased with the recent progress made with the teachers' union, Dela Cruz said.
Stephen Schatz, the assistant superintendent for the Office of Strategic Reform at the state Department of Education, said the report highlights the state's efforts and challenges to "boldly transform Hawaii's public education system."
He said the state is pleased with the teachers' union agreement and looks forward to moving forward with "Race to the Top" reforms.
"This is very hard work, but we are up for the challenge," Schatz said. "We remain ready and committed to deliver on our promise to ensure that every child graduates college- and career-ready."