East Hawaii News

Waters of Life Charter School Honored Again

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Waters of Life Public Charter School added another chapter to its resurgence today when it was named one of the state’s top schools in making progress toward raising student achievement and graduation rates.

The Mountain View charter school was one of three Big Island schools among 14 public schools in Hawaii honored under the state’s new Strive HI Performance System.

Waters of Life, which was the only charter school among the 14 and which was facing loss of its charter just four years ago, was one of three singled out for “highest performance and high progress.”

Along with the recognition came monetary awards to the schools ranging from $95,000 to $20,000.

Waters of Life, along with Oahu schools Ahuimanu Elementary and Red Hill Elementary, were each awarded $95,000.

The presentation of the honors and awards totaling $1 million were made at a ceremony this morning on the Red Hill campus.

E.B. de Silva Elementary in Hilo was among nine schools recognized for “highest performance” and given a $75,000 award.

Konawaena Elementary was named in the third category under “highest progress” and awarded $20,000.

The Strive HI Performance System was approved by the federal government in May to replace outdated aspects of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

While NCLB used rigid reading and math benchmarks known as “adequate yearly progress” to gauge student progress, the new system uses multiple research-based indicators that also take into consideration such things as achievement growth and gaps, chronic absenteeism, graduation rates and college readiness and enrollment, state education officials said.

State school Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi said the schools’ recognition was “well-deserved.”

“To get to this point is not easy,” she said. “Yet these principals and teachers have shown what is possible through a unified effort, hard work and dedication.”

The inaugural Strive HI Awards were given out last spring, when 32 schools received nearly $1 million toward improving their efforts.

During those awards, Waters of Life was one of five schools – along with Hilo Intermediate School – which received $100,000 for successfully exiting a NCLB sanction known as “restructuring” by meeting annual progress goals for two consecutive years.

Waters of Life was also named Most Improved Charter School of the Year of 2011 by the Hawaii Public Charter School Network.

The charter school has come a long way since 2008 when the state’s Charter School Review Panel placed Waters of Life first on probation, claiming the school was under poor financial management, and then in 2009 attempted to revoke its charter.

The school’s board then sued the panel, the state Board of Education and the Department of Education, and received a court-sanctioned injunction to remain in operation. A court later ruled that the panel did not have the authority to revoke the school’s charter.

Waters of Life turned its finances around in 2010 and later had its probation lifted.

A full list of the schools recognized today follows:

Highest Performance and High Progress ($95,000 each)

  • Waters of Life Public Charter School
  • Ahuimanu Elementary
  • Red Hill Elementary

Highest Performance ($75,000 each)

  • E.B. de Silva Elementary
  • Hickam Elementary
  • Hokulani Elementary
  • Lanakila Elementary
  • Liholiho Elementary
  • Manoa Elementary
  • Maunaloa Elementary
  • Palisades Elementary
  • Pearl Ridge Elementary

Highest Progress ($20,000)

  • Konawaena Elementary
  • Kalihi Uka Elementary


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