Tuesday, May 5, 2015

"Grading the Public Schools"

It's that time of the year when Honolulu Magazine publishes their annual "Grading the Public Schools" article.  As the proud principal of our school, I always buy the issue but I dread what I will read.  You see, our school is never at the top of the list, and even if I know how the magazine rates schools, it is difficult to explain why we receive the grade we are given.

Last year was especially hard; it was the first year for a different rating system Strive-HI, and it is a challenge to try to explain how our score was calculated.  Last year, we were rated a D+, and even if the State said we were in "Continuous Improvement," the general public sees that grade and reacts to it. I had family members ask if I was disappointed with the grade (of course I was!) or parents asking what we were going to do to improve. This year, the magazine rated us a "C."  Our Strive-HI scores went up from 178 points to 228, but that's still a far cry from the maximum 400 points. 228 points places us #85 amongst 172 elementary schools in our state, smack dab in the middle.

The truth is that every school does the best they can with the cards they are dealt.  I guarantee that every school looks at their students and designs programs that best address the needs of their students. We have a transient military population with students coming in and leaving at all times of the school year.  We know that most of these students will be with us for maybe two or three years before leaving for another state or country.  Our vision is to "empower learners to explore, discover, create, and share," and that means access to learning using a variety of tools, including technology.  I am amazed when I see students so confidently using different tech tools to collaborate on projects or to share what they have learned.  Our teachers use project-based learning to engage their students in understanding concepts through interdisciplinary units, and we offer students opportunities to experience coding, design studio, Robotics, drama, intramural sports, gardening, and media club. This year, many of our teachers have integrated art into their teaching, and the students are responding with incredible projects.

Last year, I complimented a fellow principal on her students' success at the `Olelo Youth XChange media competition, and she wryly responded, "You mean our D- school?" We laughed when I told her, "Well, we got a D+," to which she replied, "Gee, those "A" schools must be really outstanding!" We both realized that as long as we focus on engaging our learners and providing them with unique experiences, we are preparing them to be successful despite the grade in the magazine.

We may not ever achieve the highest scores or grades on Strive-HI, but I am proud of all the opportunities we offer our students.  I am confident that they will leave our school better-prepared to make their mark in the world. Here are just a few of the activities our students experience at our school.

Fourth graders were able to make an ipu from scratch and learned to play this musical instrument.
Students from preschool through fifth grade learn to garden.  This is a fourth grade Hawaiian garden with native as well as introduced plants.  

Our Robotics team has had much success despite having to form a new team every year.  This is a tribute to the students and their coaches who put in a lot of extra hours to prepare for the competitions.
We have the support of our military partners for school-wide events like The Cardboard Challenge.  The students and soldiers have so much fun creating!

Finally, we are proud of our Media Club for creating and producing outstanding videos. Check out our HKES Kids Vimeo Channel for some of the projects our students have created.


  1. A society's competitive advantage will come not from how well its schools teach the multiplication and periodic tables, but from how well they stimulate imagination and creativity. (Albert Einstein)

  2. A society's competitive advantage will come not from how well its schools teach the multiplication and periodic tables, but from how well they stimulate imagination and creativity. (Albert Einstein)

  3. So true, Gma Pita! HKES is so fortunate to have wonderful, creative and stimulating teachers like you!

  4. I agree! We teach critical thinking and 21st Century Skills and that's what will make kids successful in life- not what they made on some test.

  5. I think it's ironic with all the testing we do with our students and discuss that those tests are not always accurate depictions of what's REALLY going on in the classroom, within the student, etc...and here they do the same to the whole school. I have only been here at HK for 4 years, but have seen so much growth in, not only myself, but within the school, students, clubs, etc...It makes me happy and proud to be a part of the ever changing instruction and team in order to help address the special needs of our unique students and their transiency!

  6. Thank you, Ronda and Mailei, for your positive comments. We truly do have wonderful staff members who are constantly learning and sharing with their colleagues! We appreciate all of you!