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Hawaii Struggling With Race to the Top Guidelines

March 26, 2012, 6:33 PM HST
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A report issued today by the Center for American Progress agrees with what federal education officials said in December — Hawaii is struggling to meet standards set in the Obama administration’s Race to the Top initiative.

The center, an education policy think-tank based in Washington, DC, singled out Florida and Hawaii as having a hard time meeting their goals under the federal program.

The Race to the Top is a $4.4 billion grant program established as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Hawaii, one of 40 states to apply for grants, was awarded $75 million.

However, federal officials have graded Hawaii’s performance in the program unsatisfactory, and in December notified the state that it was at risk of losing  the funding.

The CAP report noted that Hawaii had set optimistic goals for itself, including raising by 2014 the Hawaii State Assessment scores from 65% to 90% in reading and from 44% to 82% in math.

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Over the same time period the state is also looking to increase its high school graduation rate from 80% to 90%. By 2018 it intends to increase the  percentage of students attending college to 55% from the current rate of 51%.

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The CAP report said Hawaii has “had a hard time maintaining momentum.” It notes that budget cuts and teacher contract disputes have delayed implementation of some goals, including lengthening the school year and rewarding teachers who improve student learning.

Still, Hawaii has made some progress, such as improving graduation requirements and broadening access to early childhood programs, the report said.

It also noted that Hawaii’s “high-risk” rating by the US Department of Education’s limits the state’s control over the funding until greater progress is made.

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