Categorized | Education

Chronic absenteeism in public schools down 39%


Hawaii’s public elementary schools have made significant headway in reducing the number of students chronically absent, a strong predictor of academic success, according to the Hawaii State Department of Education (DOE) 2013-14 Strive HI Performance System results.

Chronic absenteeism is one of the most powerful predictors of student success, even accounting for other factors such as poverty and disability. Curbing chronic absenteeism is a key focus of the Strive HI Performance System, which supports schools’ progress based on multiple, research-based indicators.

The percentage of students absent 15 days or more in the 2013-14 school year dropped to 11 percent from 18 percent a year ago. The seven-point drop boosts the prospect for achievement in other performance areas — including proficiency and graduation — for more than 5,500 students statewide.

“During a year of tremendous change in our public schools, it is clear that our students and staff continue to answer the call to strive higher at every level,” Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi said. “The data shows some clear bright spots, as well as some things we need to continue to work on. I want to thank our principals, teachers, staff, and students for all of the efforts put forward to raise awareness about the importance of attendance. It’s not just about showing up for class, it’s about laying the educational foundation for student success.”

Strive HI data also show significant student improvement in science proficiency. As schools continue to adjust to Hawaii Common Core standards and assessments, the data revealed slightly lower reading and math proficiency. Results for college-readiness, graduation rates, and college-going rates remained steady.

Launched in the 2012-13 school year, Strive HI replaced outdated aspects of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, which looked only at reading and math scores to impose strict consequences to schools.



The percent of students who are chronically absent (15 days or more) has dropped from 18 percent to 11 percent; other school culture indicators are improving.

· Improvements are widespread: 163 of 169 elementary schools improved their chronic absenteeism rates.

· Overall, 5,500 fewer elementary school students were chronically absent – meaning they have far better chances of success.

· Over the last four years, average daily attendance has increased slightly from 94.0% to 94.3%, and there have been 2,000 fewer suspensions.

“The significant reductions in chronic absenteeism show schools are doing a better job at making instruction more engaging and interesting,” said Deputy Superintendent Ronn Nozoe. “They are to be commended for working with families and community partners to provide wrap-around services to address attendance barriers like health and transportation issues, intervening with at-risk students based on data, and improving school culture.

“Research shows that when a leading indicator like chronic absenteeism improves, it’s a good sign that improvements in grades, graduation rates and college-going rates will follow,” Nozoe added.


Students proficient in science climbed to 40 percent from 34 percent. Slight declines were seen in reading (69 percent from 72 percent) and math proficiency (59 percent from 60 percent), as schools adjust to new standards and an expected new baseline for scores.

· 2,500 additional students were proficient in science. For 2013-14, the Hawaii State Assessment Bridge tests for reading and math were administered — they were a subset of questions from the old state assessment that are aligned to the new Hawaii Common Core standards, designed to help the transition to the new Smarter Balanced assessment students will take this year.

Hawaii’s new state assessment will create a new proficiency baseline — students are not doing worse in reading and math, they’re taking a different exam.

Parents and the community should look to a school’s student growth performance for a more reliable metric during this transition — seeing how a school’s students are advancing relative to their peers across the state.

Science, which was overlooked by NCLB, is seeing renewed enthusiasm and focus under Strive HI.

Some of the factors likely at play here: (1) Around the state, educators are implementing exciting strategies to engage students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) efforts that improve science skills; and (2) the shift to the Hawaii Common Core standards, which focus on applying reading and math skills across subjects to solve real-world problems, helps students in other areas like science.

“We expected an adjustment as new standards and assessments challenge students to understand and demonstrate knowledge and skills in deeper and more meaningful ways,” Matayoshi said. “A new proficiency baseline will be established when students take the Smarter Balanced assessments this year.”

School-level Strive HI Performance Reports with growth data and other indicators can be found at:


ACT scores, high school graduation rates and college-going rates remain steady as part of a long-term upward trend.

· The graduation rate for the Class of 2013 remained at 82 percent and college-going rates for students who graduated in the Class of 2012 remain at 63 percent.

· The percentage of students reaching a 19 or above on ACT remains steady at 34 percent, while the number of students meeting ACT’s College Readiness Benchmarks edged up from to 9 percent from 7 percent. Based on local research, a composite score of 19 on the ACT exam indicates readiness for entry-level courses in the University of Hawaii System.

· The percentage of students requiring remedial classes in college English remained steady at 31 percent, while math remediation dropped to 32 percent from 36 percent.

“We would all like to see more rapid improvement in indicators of college-readiness: ACT scores, graduation rates and college-going rates,” Matayoshi said. “We expect they will improve over time as absenteeism drops, and more students are engaging in rich learning experiences and receiving individualized supports.”

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