Maui Graduation Common Core

After No Child Left Behind legislation was seen as problematic by some politicians, various state leaders developed what is now known as the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). As of June 2014, it has been adopted in public schools in 43 states.

According to Donalyn Dela Cruz (Director of Communications & Community Affairs Office for the Hawaii Department of Education) Hawaii was among the first states to adopt and implement the CCSS in the public school system at all grades in School Year 2013-2014. The Smarter Balanced exam had a test-run in the 2013-14 school year, and was implemented in spring 2015 for grades 3-8, and 11 in Mathematics and English Language Arts/Literacy.

There is some opposition to Common Core in Hawaii. According to the common core standards are national standards that are being portrayed as state-led, and the smarter balanced exam results will determine student advancement, teacher pay and tenure, and district funding. The group also claims that children subject to common core will be monitored and documented in a massive database that could be shared with the government, states, researchers and private corporations. They also claim the standards are of poor quality and the system will be financially unsustainable.

Dela Cruz stated that the DOE has received positive and critical feedback regarding implementation of the CCSS and that the DOE is aware that there will be an adjustment period for the Common Core.

The DOE will use some of the information gained from smarter balanced exam testing to determine student advancement, teacher pay and tenure, but according to Dela Cruz, the exams are only one measure of achievement for students, and one part out of four in categories used to determine teacher pay and tenure.

As far as federal funding is concerned, Dela Cruz states that the smarter balanced exam results won’t affect the amount of money Hawaii receives from the feds. For the 2015-2016 school year, the State of Hawaii will received $258 million from the federal government 13% of its $1.9 billion budget.

Dela Cruz cautioned that the change to a new assessment and standards is expected to result in lower test scores in Hawaii as well as other states. She stated that a drop in scores does not mean students are performing any worse –it simply means a new student achievement baseline is being established based on higher standards and a different assessment. The results will be made public in September.

A handful of states, including Oregon, allow parents to opt out of Common Core Testing. However, Hawaii does not. According to Dela Cruz, all public school students are expected to receive quality instruction aligned to the state standards and take the associated assessment. Therefore, the DOE is not able to honor an opt-out request.

At this point, the Common Core applies only to the public schools that have adopted it. Private schools are not obligated to participate in implementing the common core.

For more information about the Common Core and Smarter Balanced testing in Hawaii, visit or

Image Credit: Happy Bandits

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Emily Severson is a Montessori Elementary Teacher on Maui and is the very proud parent of Laila Jane.


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