By Todd Wilson, Director of Achievement-Reading, Hawaii Alliance
Within the Hawaiian Islands, the island of Molokai has some stunning statistics: the longest white sand beach in Hawaii (3 miles), the longest waterfall (2,165 ft.), and the highest sea cliffs in the world (3,000 ft.). These superlatives exist within a timeless simplicity; the island is known to be the most Hawaiian, holding on to its roots in a modern world. As one may infer, change is slow; the island does not have a single traffic signal or a shopping center. In terms of education reform, progress should be slower on Molokai than else- where, yet that is far from the truth.
Even though Molokai is known as the “Friendly Isle” and lives the Aloha spirit, residents are not quick to adopt outside ideas about what is best. One would think that EdisonLearning would struggle to make change, yet approach is everything. The Alliance model is based on partnerships, and when EdisonLearning staff started working with all five Molokai schools in 2011, school leaders embraced the school-wide systems for data analysis, targeted interventions based on standards, and clear communication about Academic Yearly Progress (AYP). All principals steered their campuses to substantial gains last year, and Molokai Middle School, led by principal Gary Davidson, was recognized as the most improved public school in Hawaii—a new superlative!
This school year has continued the upward trend. Tom Ekno, Director of Achievement-Leadership, works with Molokai Middle and High Schools and shared that both “continue to be student centered and have worked to become more aligned. After just two rounds of Hawaii State Assessment (HSA) testing, both schools have nearly met their Safe Harbor (AYP) goals in all subgroups for both reading and math.” Ekno continued, “If Molokai Middle School achieves Safe Harbor again this year, it will succeed in exiting restructuring status in just two years through its alliance with EdisonLearning.”
As above, so below, and Ray Woodbeck, Director of Achievement-Leadership, shared that “the three Molokai elementary schools [Kaunakakai, Maunaloa, and Kilohana] are committed to data-driven instruction through the ongoing review of student progress.” Although each principal has taken a different tack, all are examples of change leadership. The principal at Maunaloa visits each classroom twice per day while the principal at Kaunakakai has written personal notes to all students in the ‘approaching proficiency” category after the first round of the HSA. With Woodbeck’s assistance, the principal at Kilohana created a special AYP data model for precise HSA round-one calculations; the goals were shared at a staff ice cream social along with targeted student lists to help teachers with interventions that they are now implementing.
The leadership at the schools and the guidance by the Hawaii Alliance school teams will continue to bring positive change to all five campuses. When the final results are in this May, there will likely be more superlatives and progress on the island, even if it remains comparatively “slow“ with the rest of Hawaii.