Honolulu Advertiser Second Opinion column by Cliff Slater

Friday, March 17, 2000






(1) Waite, David. Marines try to alter view of Isle education. Honolulu Advertiser. January 7, 2000.


(2) Waite, David. Marines try to alter view of Isle education. Honolulu Advertiser. January 7, 2000. & Gordon, Mike. Military delegate to schools disputed. Honolulu Advertiser February 5, 2000.


(3) The Joint Venture Education Forum.

(4) Gordon, Mike. Schools listen to base families: Forum addresses military concerns about education. Honolulu Advertiser. March 6, 2000. Pp. 1 & 5.

(5) The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) website shows the full results of state scores. Dr. Mitsugi Nakashima, President of the Hawaii State Board of Education is a member of the National Assessment Governing Board which decides policy for NAEP.

(6) For the combined scores for reading, writing, math, and science, Hawaii students score better than only two states, Louisiana and Mississippi. And both of those states beat Hawaii on reading.

(7) Report Card of the States.

(8) Summary of Grades by State.

(9) Summary of Grades by State.

(10) Summary of Grades by State.

(11) Quoted in a Honolulu Advertiser editorial. School quality study: too many D's and F's. January 13, 2000.

(12) The Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMMSS).





(13) Borreca, Richard. Cayetano: It's time for a change. Honolulu Star-Bulletin. March 10, 1999.



Public schools: Let's be honest


In January, the Marine Corps Liaison Officer, Major Jeffrey Nyhart, told us he was trying to educate his fellow Marines about Hawaii schools. He said, when someone is reluctant to come to Hawaii based upon what they may have heard about the schools (we) can say, "You don' t know what you're talking about." (1)

This seems a strange way to treat one's Marine brothers-in-arms. After all, semper fi, the Marine motto, is a Latin abbreviation for "always faithful," not, "always fibbing."

Nyhart's predecessor, retired Marine Lt. Col. Kerry Gershanek, now a civil servant and member of the Lanikai Elementary School Board, has a different view. He calls Hawaii's public education, "a broken system," and says, it is, "at best, institutionalized child abuse." In other places, he says, "people would be taking to the streets with shotguns and pitchforks if that's what they had to do to change things."(2)

It might be helpful to the Marines if these two views could be reconciled. So should those of Ms. Lea Albert, the DOE's Windward District Superintendent, and our Schools Superintendent, Dr. Paul LeMehieu.

Ms. Albert said recently, "Hawaii' s schools have too many misperceptions about them. They are solid schools. And they are only going to get better. This [military liaison] group(3) can get the real picture of where our schools are throughout the world."(4)

"Solid?" And, "where our schools are throughout the world?"

I have to set the record straight on this, if only for our Marines.

First, the latest Quality Counts 2000-- the annual assessment of the various states' educational progress(5)--puts Hawaii lowest in overall student scores, except for Louisiana and Mississippi.(6) (Since our three states have similar political climates, perhaps this is to be expected.)

On the latest scores for reading tests, the study says of Hawaii, "the proportion of 4th graders reading at the "proficient" level, [is] now the lowest percentage in the nation." (7) (That is what second to none must mean.)

Second, only seven states score worse than Hawaii in "improving teacher quality." (8)

Third, only three states score worse in achieving "standards and accountability." (9)

Fourth, Hawaii schools have the worst possible rating for "school climate." (10)

On hearing of these scores, Superintendent LeMahieu said, "there's nothing we didn't already know in this." (11) So, why is his District Superintendent trying to mislead our nation's military about the state of Hawaii public schools?

Now, as for comparing our schools to those around the world: I shall not embarrass Ms. Albert by elaborating about how far down the scale U.S. (let alone Hawaii) schools are in comparison with those of other industrialized nations. This is all well documented in the international TIMSS reports.(12)

Fortunately, other countries around the world are compensating for the shortfalls in our K-12 public education system. They are supplying our universities and colleges with the young immigrants that go on to become the college math, science and engineering graduates that keep American industry running. It is great for America; a tragedy for Hawaii.

Our Governor is right in saying, that to improve our public education, "We need a revolution in education, an absolute revolution." (13) However, revolutions do not start at the top. So, would the first one hundred angry parents please go chain themselves to the State Capitol doors. Then we could get the Governor's revolution underway.

Cliff Slater is a regular Advertiser columnist whose footnoted columns are at: www.lava.net/cslater