Thursday, November 18, 2021

*The Board did not meet at a physical location. As part of the response to the threat of COVID-19, Governor David Ige issued an Emergency Proclamation dated October 1, 2021, suspending Hawaii Revised Statutes Chapter 92, Public Agency Meetings and Records, to the extent necessary to enable boards as defined in Section 92-2, to conduct meetings without any board members or members of the public physically present in the same location, among other things.

Kili Namauʻu, Chairperson
Bill Arakaki, Vice Chairperson
Shanty Asher
Kaimana Barcarse
Lyla Berg
Lynn Fallin
Catherine Payne
Kenneth Uemura
Bruce Voss, ex officio


Kyla Musso, Student Representative
Keith Hayashi, Interim Superintendent, Department of Education
Phyllis Unebasami, Deputy Superintendent, Department of Education
Robert Davis, Complex Area Superintendent, Leilehua-Mililani-Waialua Complex Area
Brenda Vierra-Chun, Principal, Wheeler Middle School
Heidi Armstrong, Assistant Superintendent, Office of Student Support Services, Department of Education
Teri Ushijima, Interim Assistant Superintendent, Office of Curriculum and Instructional Design, Department of Education
Alison Kunishige, Executive Director
Kenyon Tam, Board Analyst
Regina Pascua, Executive Secretary
Lady Garrett, Secretary

  1. Call to Order

Committee Chairperson Kili Namauʻu called the Student Achievement Committee (“Committee”) meeting to order at 11:00 a.m.

II. Approval of Meeting Minutes of October 21, 2021

Committee Chairperson Namauʻu called for public testimony on this agenda item. No one provided oral testimony at this time.

Committee Chairperson Namauʻu asked Committee members to review the minutes of the Committee’s October 21, 2021 meeting.

Committee Vice Chairperson Bill Arakaki moved to approve the Committee’s meeting minutes of October 21, 2021. Committee Member Kaimana Barcarse seconded.

Committee Chairperson Namauʻu asked if there were any objections to the motion. No Committee member raised objections, and the motion carried through unanimous consent from all members present (Committee Vice Chairperson Arakaki, Committee Members Shanty Asher, Barcarse, Lyla Berg, Lynn Fallin, Catherine Payne, and Kenneth Uemura).

ACTION: Motion to approve the Student Achievement Committee meeting minutes of October 21, 2021 (Arakaki/Barcarse). The motion carried through unanimous consent from all members present.

III. Discussion Items

Committee Chairperson Namauʻu called for public testimony on this agenda item.

Cheri Nakamura, HE‘E Coalition, noted that the Department of Education’s (“Department”) universal screener data indicate that a super majority of students are below grade level and asked how the Department is going to ensure that students are on grade level and make adjustments to the Hawaii Multi-Tiered System of Support (“HMTSS”) to reflect the achievement gaps that existed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Paula Adams, Hawaii Afterschool Alliance, expressed concern with the number of students below grade level, encouraged the Board of Education (“Board”) to prioritize afterschool programs to help students with the greatest needs, and stated that afterschool programs are essential to accelerate learning and provide engaging hands-on opportunities for students to develop social and emotional skills.

Lisa Morrison, Hawaii State Teachers Association, noted that the universal screener data quantifies the need for aggressive student interventions, asked how the Department plans to scale up the Wheeler Middle School program and structure the master bell schedule to give teachers more time for planning and interventions and stated that schools need more resources to achieve greater outcomes.

Committee Chairperson Namauʻu called on Keith Hayashi, Interim Superintendent, and Phyllis Unebasami, Deputy Superintendent, to present an analysis of the English language arts and math universal screener data for elementary and middle schools for the 2021-2022 school year.

Unebasami stated that all three levels (school, complex area, and state) of the tri-level system did the analysis of this school year’s first quarter universal screener data for Kindergarten to Grade 8 and that she will be sharing the statewide information. She also introduced Robert Davis, Complex Area Superintendent (“CAS”), Leilehua-Mililani-Waialua Complex Area, and Brenda Vierra-Chun, Principal, Wheeler Middle School who would provide information on how school administrators use the data to inform decision-making at the school level.

Unebasami stated that slide 2 provides the aggregate statewide universal statewide screener data for fall 2021; schools primarily use universal screeners as a diagnostic student assessment. She explained that these periodic assessments show student performance at the beginning, middle, and end of the school year. Unebasami stated that the Department could use this data to focus resources on technical assistance, professional development, and systems decisions. She stated that schools use this data to determine access to programs and services and adjust daily instructional practices. Unebasami stated that for the 2021-2022 school year, the Department will require schools to screen all students in kindergarten through Grade 8 to assess overall proficiency and student needs for in-person and accelerated learning supports.

Unebasami reported the following universal screener data results for fall 2021:

She noted that the baseline data shows many students experienced learning loss and need for accelerated learning supports.

Unebasami reported that slide 3 shows the aggregate statewide universal screener data for language arts by grade levels. She stated that ELA data shows that Grade 3 has a higher percentage of students on or above grade level, which was the last group to benefit from an uninterrupted in-person kindergarten school year and was also a group the Department prioritized for in-person learning last school year.

Unebasami explained that the Department prioritized in-person learning for students in kindergarten through Grade 2 across the state. She also stated that Grade 1 has the lowest percentage of students on or above grade level and that the Department anticipated this because of the unconventional mode of instruction these students received as kindergarteners last school year.

Unebasami also noted that the data shows that over 38% of students in Grade 5 and over 40% of students in Grades 6, 7, and 8 are two or more grade levels behind.

Unebasami reported that slide 4 provides the aggregate statewide universal screener data for math by grade levels. She noted that younger students are struggling with math with a significant number of Grade 1 students behind grade level. Unebasami stated that older students performed a little better, but that a significant number of students are at least one grade level behind.

Unebasami reported that slide 5 provides the aggregate statewide universal screener data for ELA and math broken down by subgroups of students in the high-needs category, including students that are economically disadvantaged, eligible for free and reduced meals, special needs, and English learners. She stated that greater percentages of students in high-needs subgroups are not on grade level and extra support is necessary to facilitate student success.

Unebasami reported that slide 6 provides the aggregate statewide universal screener data for ELA and math by race and ethnic subgroups and that the Department used the same categories used by the United States Department of Education in its accountability reports. She noted that the Department is aware that Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander students are struggling and that it is making greater efforts to provide these students with additional support.

Unebasami reported that slide 7 provides a comparison of the first quarter universal screener data for this school year with last year’s data for ELA. She explained that the data shows the percentage of students on or above grade level or those who improved their proficiency levels since last year. Unebasami expressed concern about the students who are two or more grade levels below or dropped in proficiency levels since fall 2020. She stated more students started this school year two or more grade levels behind and schools need to make improvements, including more interventions to bring students up to grade level.

Unebasami reported that slide 8 provides a comparison of the first quarter universal screener data for this school year with last year’s data for math. She explained that the patterns are similar to ELA and that schools need to implement programs and services, instructional strategies and support, and accelerated learning. She asked Davis and Vierra-Chun to share an example of how administrators use data at the school level inform decision-making.

Davis stated that the Leilehua-Mililani-Waialua complex area includes a wide range of diverse neighborhoods, communities, families, and students deeply rooted in the sugar cane and pineapple industries and includes schools located on two military bases. He stated that the organizational structure of complex areas allows him to gain firsthand knowledge of each school’s design, strengths, programs, and challenges to support and lead schools based on the needs relevant to the community. Davis explained that his role as CAS is to support schools based on their individual needs and communities because approximately 97% of the schools in the complex area are connected to military students.

Davis introduced Vierra-Chun, the principal at Wheeler Middle School. Davis stated that Vierra-Chun has worked for 27 years at Wheeler Middle School (16 years as principal), that she was Principal of the Year in 2019, and this year the school was nationally recognized as a Blue Ribbon School. Vierra-Chun stated that the school is located in Wahiawa and is the only piece of state property on Wheeler Army Airfield with 650 enrolled students, of which about 97% belong to military families. She stated that each school year approximately 200 students enroll and exit in the same year. Vierra-Chun also stated that 65% of the school’s teaching staff has less than three years of teaching experience and that only half remain at the school beyond two to three years, but the school has maintained a stable group of leaders.

Vierra-Chun stated that Wheeler Middle School is student centered and prioritizes collaboration because all school decisions are action driven and data informed. She noted that the school operates with a sense of urgency and it is important to know strengths, needs, and goals of students to make a positive impact on their lives. Vierra-Chun noted that Wheeler Middle School has an exceptionally high rating for teacher-student relationships, as measured by the Panorama survey and compared to other middle schools nationally scores near the 99th percentile. She explained that this sustained success is due to the intentionally designed systems of support that begin with the master school schedule, which allows school personnel time to collaborate daily and analyze curriculum, instructional, social, emotional, and behavioral data.

Vierra-Chun explained that data analysis includes more than reflecting on smarter balanced assessment results and that teachers meet weekly to plan curriculum and instruction for students. She stated that weekly meetings capture grade level trends in student performance and provides an opportunity for unit feedback. Vierra-Chun emphasized that the structured teacher planning time allows school personnel to engage in data chats throughout the school year to analyze and identify strategies to support and prioritize learners in Tier 2 and Tier 3 who are one grade level or more behind.

Vierra-Chun stated that academic coaches and administrators facilitate structured teacher planning meetings so decisions can impact learning immediately. She shared that in addition to this, school personnel engage in data chats several times throughout the year using diagnostic data from iReady. Vierra-Chun stated that each teacher meets with grade level administrators and academic coaches to analyze individual classroom data and set growth goals for each student while identifying instructional strategies to support students.

Vierra-Chun explained that the text on slide 8 is not legible, but she wanted to show the level of detail the schools use. She stated that most accountability reports focus on proficiency scores, but that measuring growth is equally important. Vierra-Chun stated that a large percentage of students start the school year one or two grade levels below, so it is not enough for students to experience one year’s worth of growth each year. She noted that over 50% of students at Wheeler experience more than one years’ worth of growth each year.

Vierra-Chun described another system of support, C.A.R.E., which stands for collaboration, aloha, respect, and empowerment. Vierra-Chun shared that the school has used the same approach to analyze social, emotional, and behavioral data and for the past four years. She stated that the school partnered with Panorama to track attendance, grades, behavior, and social-emotional learning data to develop individualized student action plans which connect students to Tier 2 or Tier 3 supports and services. She noted that the school’s systems and practices allow for frequent and deliberate use of data to inform everything that happens at the school and has resulted in a thriving school community.

Committee Chairperson Namauʻu acknowledged the significant accomplishments of Vierra-Chun and Davis for the great work and she congratulated Wheeler Middle School for receiving the Blue Ribbon School award.

Committee Member Barcarse expressed appreciation for the data and asked how the state level will use the data to develop its strategies to address learning loss, increase academic outcomes, and support the social-emotional needs of students, especially the students who are most disadvantaged and behind. He also applauded Wheeler Middle School and asked how the state level will highlight Wheeler’s success for other schools to follow.

Hayashi stated that all schools use their universal screener and social-emotional data to determine effective strategies that they can implement to address the diverse needs of students in schools. He stated that a strength of the Department’s tri-level system is that because these assessments are statewide, schools can use the data to inform decisions to support students. Unebasami stated that each of the levels in the tri-level system uses these data. She detailed that CAS met with school administrators to identify their needs, then worked with assistant superintendents to identify whether complex areas can establish programs and services locally or at the state level. She explained that last week, the state office used statewide discussions to create the plan for the implementation of programs for every school and complex area.

Committee Member Barcarse stated that he looks forward to the plans that arise from the work personnel is doing at the school level. He expressed appreciation for the exemplary example of Wheeler, which the state office shared with the Committee, but expressed an interest in hearing from schools that are struggling.

Committee Member Fallin stated that data helps her get a clear picture of what is happening with students and that data will trigger productive discussions between the Board and Department. She stated that under the HMTSS system, ideally 80% of students are in Tier 1, on or above grade level, while the remainder of students fall in Tier 2 or Tier 3. Committee Member Fallin asked, from a school-level perspective, what it would take to move students from Tier 2 and Tier 3 to Tier 1 so the Department can get closer to the target of 80% of students in Tier 1.

Davis explained that if schools were not operating in a pandemic, the target would be to get all students to Tier 1, but schools are not facing normal circumstances and schools are trying to reach normal learning levels. He stated that the Department needs to use its facilities and personnel more effectively and that the Department needs to extend the school day because even exceptional schools are struggling under the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Davis also stated that complex areas are looking forward to additional federal funding.

Committee Member Fallin stated that the Department has been struggling to show growth in student learning and that the COVID-19 pandemic has set everyone back in multiple ways, but that it is also an opportunity to change the game, so the goal should be to get 80% of students in Tier 1 in as many schools as possible.

Committee Vice Chairperson Arakaki asked whether Wheeler Middle School used training or a consultant to support or initiate the systems it has in place. Vierra-Chun explained that at a conference twenty years ago she met someone who specialized in designing master schedules to allow for professional development and collaboration during the school day.

Committee Vice Chairperson Arakaki asked what key instructional practices or strategies schools could focus on, especially for students who are behind and need to accelerate further. Vierra-Chun replied that it starts with providing teachers with time to collaborate and share strategies.

Committee Vice Chairperson Arakaki asked how school created positions so that school personnel had time for collaboration and how it gained commitment from staff to reach the school’s vision and purpose. Vierra-Chun shared that it is getting difficult to sustain this system because student enrollment is down and each year the school needs to get increasingly creative because 90% of the school’s budget goes toward personnel. She expressed appreciation for the literacy grants that has provided the school with additional resources.

Committee Vice Chairperson Arakaki stated that principals on Kauai have shared that they are experiencing teacher shortages and asked if this is affecting Wheeler Middle School as well. Vierra-Chun replied that the school has been fortunate and none of its teachers left this school year. She stated that the school is not seeing teacher shortages, but there is an ongoing substitute teacher shortage.

Committee Vice Chairperson Arakaki asked how other schools like Helemano Elementary School provide support for their student population. Davis replied that Helemano Elementary School is in a similar position to Wheeler Middle School where a seasoned principal provides strong systems to support the school and core instruction for kindergarten to Grade 3. He stated that the school is able to identify students who are behind and address their needs immediately. Davis shared that while attending a data team meeting at Helemano Elementary School, he was able to watch teachers in a grade level meeting discuss formative assessments used the previous week and corresponding teaching strategies. Davis stated that weekly teacher meetings provide a real time diagnosis of students, which is not easy and requires a lot of coordination.

Committee Vice Chairperson Arakaki stated that it would be great to see if the state level can create a system working with CAS and principals and asked how the state level can establish this kind of communication so schools can learn from each other.
Hayashi stated that schools create systems and that the state level provides opportunities for school administrators to meet, like the Deputy’s forum, and that schools will continue to share best practices and strengthen individual systems in complex areas.

Committee Member Berg asked how schools communicate with parents and students regarding student achievement. Davis replied that one example is Waialua Elementary School, which will be conducting student-led conferences to demonstrate student learning. Committee Member Berg clarified that her question has more to do with regaining trust and creating confidence in the system to help students help themselves and for the public to contribute. She encouraged the Department to report on achievement versus proficiency and clarify that scheduling is not synonymous with instructional hours. Committee Member Berg shared that Maili Elementary School transitioned to a four-day week to adjust and accommodate instructional hours for students.

Committee Member Asher stated that schools should provide teachers with additional support to address learning loss and that schools should embed teacher professional development in school schedules.

Committee Member Asher asked several questions: (1) how can schools set up Tier 2 and Tier 3 schedules so they will not affect those in Tier 1?; (2) is teacher development embedded in every school as a standard practice to address innovative and creative learning?; (3) what do you see in Wheeler’s model that could be replicated in other schools which may have different challenges or demographics?; and (4) are there examples of additional language supports for students?

Heidi Armstrong, Assistant Superintendent, Office of Student Support Services stated that a typical day for the students in Tier 3 will include teachers greeting them every morning to ensure the student is organized, using program monitoring sheets to stay on track with goals, classroom rituals (such as deep breathing, positive feedback, self-directed breaks), other adults to help the student stay on task, and tutoring instruction to build on lessons based on student’s needs. She stated that Helemano Elementary School identifies students through the universal screening process and puts targeted interventions in place.

Davis stated that collecting and using the data is not the same and not all schools will be at the same level because each school has different needs and schools may need to pause because the Department cannot apply technical support when schools need adaptive change. He stated that school administrators make adjustments to do what is best for students by understanding the direction of the school.

Hayashi stated that while visiting schools across the state he was able to observe systems in place and sit with educators to discuss how to take universal screener data use them to be student focused. He stated that this is a continuous cycle towards student improvement.

Committee Member Asher asked about the types of language support schools are offering and what happens if schools need to provide these kinds of services. Davis replied that the complex area uses the response to intervention process (“RTI”) for each student. He also stated that the complex area is looking at expanding the school day to provide support during the additional school hours.

Vierra-Chun stated that the school uses data to identify teachers who demonstrate the greatest growth and makes them RTI specialists who help the students who are struggling the most. She stated that the Panorama survey identifies students who are struggling and the school provides additional support, including a military family life consultant and counselors.

Board Student Representative Kyla Musso asked whether, given the first quarter universal screener data, the Department has specific long-term goals for where the Department would like to see students at the end of the school year or what it will do to ensure students are on grade level. Hayashi replied that nationally there have been drops in proficiency because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Department is committed to accelerate learning for students. He also stated that the state office would hold additional discussions with CAS and school administrators.
Board Student Representative Musso stated that she, like Committee Member Barcarse, is interested in hearing from schools that are struggling.

Committee Member Payne noted that the schools on military bases receive additional resources from the United States Department of Defense, which helps with many issues for those students in Tier 2 and Tier 3. She asked what the Department is doing to address this need, especially for schools without additional financial assistance. Hayashi replied that even though student enrollments dropped, the state office ensured that schools received the same amount of weighted student formula funds this year so they could maintain school personnel. He stated that schools would need resources to implement plans at the school and complex area levels to meet the needs of the community.

Committee Member Payne replied that schools need to create a culture of adaptation to move a school forward and not just teach students to do tasks. Hayashi replied that the Department is looking at adaptive changes and how it can support students through their K-12 journey to prepare students for life after high school to enter the workforce or higher learning opportunities while embracing Nā Hopena A‘o.

Board Member Bruce Voss, ex officio stated that at the last Committee meeting, Unebasami shared that the Department developed a streamline application for schools to apply for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (“ESSER”) funds for programs to address learning loss. He asked if those schools who applied are getting money now to address learning loss. Unebasami stated that after the state office provided the universal screener data to CAS and schools, CAS led conversations around what schools needed around the five areas covered by Hayashi’s 3-1-1 strategy (attendance, academics, social-emotional learning, staff well-being, safe return for all). She detailed that the state office looked at the request from the complex areas using multi-disciplinary teams, which the state office launched two weeks ago. Unebasami stated that the funds the Board approved for complex areas are already in schools.

Davis stated that the complex areas are still formulating plans and getting input from schools. He stated they are still looking at coordinating efforts on hiring because the complex area will not use the bulk of the funding to hire individuals because of the high associated cost of paying for fringe benefits. Davis stated that they are already hiring casual personnel to push in supports or extend the school day and to purchase technology that can help support the curriculum. He stated that the complex area is planning to use the funds for things like universal screening, diagnostic tools, and data collection so that schools can use those tools instead of paying on separate school contracts. Davis stated that schools could then use WSF to pay for positions so they do not have to pay for fringe benefits. Davis stated that the last item the complex area will fund is supporting social emotional learning for schools and those students who are experiencing difficulty. He stated that the complex area is looking to purchase behavioral supports for schools that do not have the same United States Department of Defense resources as Wheeler Middle School.

Board Member Voss, ex officio stated that with only 23% of students that receive free or reduced lunch on grade level for ELA and only 12% of English learner students on grade level in ELA, which was a priority item established by Board from five years ago, it seems like any progress was lost. He stated that discussions about programs need to happen at all levels of the Department’s tri-level system and asked what programs the Department is looking at to address this significant loss. Armstrong stated that the Department contracted with WestEd to move programs systemically for adaptive change. She stated that three complex areas participated and the goal is to have something similar in place throughout the system for all English learners.

Teri Ushijima, Interim Assistant Superintendent, Office of Curriculum and Instructional Design stated that in complex areas, the intention is to share what is learned through strategies such as letters training and mentioned the state’s literacy grant. She stated that the goal was to make sure the students were reading on grade level before take into account how social emotional learning, programs for extended learning, and afterschool systems should contribute to learning acceleration of students in ELA. She stated that the Department completed the literacy plan last year

Committee Member Uemura asked Committee Chairperson Namauʻu to take into consideration the requests from committee members for the Department to provide a balanced perspective because while Wheeler Elementary School provided a good example of what it takes to help students, the Committees needs to hear from schools who are struggling.

Committee Member Uemura asked how students advance to the next grade level when they are several grade levels below where they are supposed to be. Hayashi stated the universal screener data is a point in time and that this numerical and quantitative data informs teachers, but many other data sets come into play when determining whether to promote a student.

Committee Member Uemura asked where Hayashi’s expects the system to be by the end of the year and whether he is targeting getting back to pre-pandemic levels from 2019. He asked, if this is the target, whether it will take two years to get there. Hayashi stated that the goal is to accelerate learning, but they need to address student needs, which is more than just academics. He stated that social emotional learning and how what is happening at home is affecting students is important. Committee Member Uemura stated that he wants to ensure the Board and Department have ongoing conversations about how they will address learning loss. Hayashi stated that he has been very fortunate to visit schools and will continue to bring schools to meetings to provide contextual information to agenda items. Committee Chairperson Namauʻu highlighted the following questions for the Department to consider and respond outside of the meeting and expressed concern for those schools with severe problems. Committee Chairperson Namauʻu asked that the Department: (1) explain what is happening in schools that do not have what Wheeler Middle School has (long term principal and administrative staff and a bell schedule that allows for teacher collaboration), particularly those that have a high number of students that are two or more grade levels below, and explain how the state office and complex areas identify and help those schools; (2) provide data on Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (specifically Micronesian) pre-pandemic to show whether current screener data indicates that students are doing worse than before or the same; (3) provide a status update on kindergarten assessments; (4) correlate the data from the universal screeners, Strive HI performance system, and Smarter Balanced assessments in some fashion and explain how is the state office looking at and using this data; (5) explain how the Office of Curriculum and Instructional Design, Office of Strategy, Innovation and Performance, and Office of Student Support Services can or do work together at the state level to support schools."

Committee Chairperson Namauʻu stated that the demographics of Wheeler Middle Schools’ population is 60% white and 20% black and there while are other challenges, like a transient student population, she know many schools have very different student demographics. She expressed concern about various ethnic and racial student populations and expressed a desire to continue the discussions, but stated that the Committee needs to see data. Committee Chairperson Namauʻu expressed concern for schools that had low proficiency levels to begin with. Hayashi stated the Department will provide answers to the questions and that everyone works hard to find strategies they can leverage. He stated that the challenges depend on the community.

Committee Chairperson Namauʻu noted that Hayashi was an excellent principal, but there are many schools that do not have the same kind of leadership he provided and that there needs to be a better system to identify, develop, and support school administrators.

IV. Late Public Testimony on Board Agenda Items

Committee Chairperson Namauʻu called for public testimony from any individuals who did not have an opportunity to testify on earlier agenda items.

Susan Pcola-Davis, member of the public, testified on agenda item III.A regarding student academic status for the 2021-2022 school year. She expressed disappointment that the Department revised its memorandum on Monday to change its presentation after she had already drafted her testimony and stated that the Department should share information about struggling schools.

Committee members received written testimony before the meeting. The following is a listing of the people who submitted written testimony before the meeting.

Agenda Item
Warren Hyde III. A. Presentation on Student Academic Status for the 2021-2022 School Year: Analysis of English Language Arts and Math Universal Screener Data for Elementary and Middle School
C. Burghardt III. A. Presentation on Student Academic Status for the 2021-2022 School Year: Analysis of English Language Arts and Math Universal Screener Data for Elementary and Middle School
Cheri NakamuraHE‘E CoalitionIII. A. Presentation on Student Academic Status for the 2021-2022 School Year: Analysis of English Language Arts and Math Universal Screener Data for Elementary and Middle School
Paula AdamsHawaii Afterschool AllianceIII. A. Presentation on Student Academic Status for the 2021-2022 School Year: Analysis of English Language Arts and Math Universal Screener Data for Elementary and Middle School

V. Adjournment

Committee Chairperson Namauʻu adjourned the meeting at 1:16 p.m.