The HONOLULU Magazine Formula for Grading the Public Schools, 2016–2017
The methodology we used to rank Hawai‘i’s public schools.
Grading the Public Schools
For more than a decade, HONOLULU Magazine has been publishing a chart that ranks Hawai‘i’s public schools from best to worst. It’s always been based on official state Department of Education data—math and reading scores, and other performance measures—with a bit of our own number crunching to arrive at an overall score for each school.
When we started, this ranking wasn’t available anywhere else, and it’s become one of the most popular stories we publish.
In 2013, the state DOE unveiled a new program called Strive HI, designed to assess the performance of schools by collecting academic measures such as math and reading scores, as well as attendance, graduation rates and other important criteria, and combining them to arrive at an overall score for each school. We replaced our own methodology with this new, more intensive one from the DOE.
But, as of last year, the state DOE no longer ranks schools through its Strive HI system. The reason: the Every Student Succeeds Act, which no longer requires schools be given performance classifications.
That meant, if HONOLULU Magazine wanted to publish a new “Grading the Public Schools” chart—and we did!—we’d have to return to crunching the numbers ourselves. Fortunately, the DOE still publishes the raw numbers for its schools. We rolled up our sleeves and came up with our own recipe for turning all that data into a single score for each school (find a more detailed explanation of this formula on page TK). This year, the factors are a little different, so we redid last year’s scores with this year’s weighting system to show any change year over year.
Because we don’t have the space to print every performance measure that went into each school’s score, we selected the ones we thought families and taxpayers would be most interested in, including math, science and reading scores and graduation rates. The overall score for each school still incorporates the complete list of measures, of course—to see a detailed, full performance report for an individual school, visit hawaiipublicschools.org, or, if you want to dive into the DOE’s master spreadsheet of 2016–17 raw data, visit bit.ly/doedata201617.
To make it easier to compare schools in an apples-to-apples way, we’ve divided the list into three sections: elementary, middle and high schools. Also, because raw number scores can sometimes be a little unwieldy, we’ve taken the liberty of giving each school a report-card-style letter grade, A through F, based on a curve. This isn’t an official grade handed out by the DOE, but we think it’s a useful shorthand when discussing how well a school is performing.
The HONOLULU Magazine Formula for Grading the Public Schools
We rate each school in the following categories of school performance data:
The percentage of a school’s students proficient in math, reading and science, based on test scores.
The median percentile that a school’s students improved in math and English language arts, compared with the previous year.
a. Elementary and Intermediate: The percentage of a school’s students absent for 15 or more days in a school year.
b. High School: A combination of two factors—the four-year graduation percentage and the college-going percentage.
4. Achievement gap rate
The percentage gap in proficiency between a school’s high-need students and non-high-need students. High-need students include economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities and students still learning the English language.
5. Other (high school only)
The percentage of a school’s students absent for 15 or more days in a school year.
We weight these categories on a 400-point scale as follows:
Achievement: 100 points
Growth: 200 points
Readiness: 40 points
Achievement gap: 60 points
Achievement: 100 points
Growth: 180 points
Readiness: 80 points
Achievement gap: 40 points
Achievement: 100 points
Growth: 60 points
Readiness: 200 points
Achievement gap: 20 points
Other: 20 points
Want the nitty gritty details of how we awarded points to each of the schools? Here are the spreadsheet formulas we used for each of the performance categories, which you could use to replicate our results. Note that the formulas often change between the elementary, intermediate and high school levels.
Elementary, Intermediate and High School: Assign a max of 100 points, based on the average of the Math, Reading and Science proficiency percentages, multiplied by 100.
Elementary: Assign a max of 200 points, based on the average of the math and English percentages, multiplied by 200.
Intermediate: Assign a max of 180 points, based on the average of the math and English percentages, multiplied by 180.
High School: Assign a max of 60 points, based on the average of the math and English percentages, multiplied by 60.
Elementary: Assign 40 points for zero chronic absenteeism, down to a minimum of zero points for 50 percent or greater absenteeism. Points assigned according to this formula: Y = ((-1/5)(X)+10) x 4, where X is the percentage of absenteeism.
Intermediate: Assign 80 points for zero chronic absenteeism, down to a minimum of zero points for 50 percent or greater absenteeism. Points assigned according to this formula: Y = ((-1/5)(X)+10) x 8, where X is the percentage of absenteeism.
High School: Assign a max of 200 points, based on the average of the two readiness measures (four-year graduation percentage and the college-going percentage) multiplied by 200.
4. ACHIEVEMENT GAP
Elementary: Assign 60 points for zero achievement gap, down to a minimum of zero points for 100 percent achievement gap. Points assigned according to this formula: Y = ((-1/10)(X)+10) x 6, where X is the gap percentage.
Intermediate: Assign 40 points for zero achievement gap, down to a minimum of zero points for 100 percent achievement gap. Points assigned according to this formula: Y = ((-1/10)(X)+10) x 4, where X is the gap percentage.
High School: Assign 20 points for zero achievement gap, down to a minimum of zero points for 100 percent achievement gap. Points assigned according to this formula: Y = ((-1/10)(X)+10) x 2, where X is the gap percentage.
5. OTHER (High School Only)
Assign 20 points for zero chronic absenteeism, down to a minimum of zero points for 50 percent or greater absenteeism. Points assigned according to this formula: Y = ((-1/5)(X) + 10) x 2, where X is the percentage of absenteeism.
A few technical notes:
We largely followed the weighting rationale used by the Hawai‘i state DOE in years past. You’ll notice that student growth is heavily prioritized at the elementary-school level, and that, by high school, the priority shifts to real-world measures of success including graduation rates and college enrollment.
We excluded from this chart any schools missing two or more categories of data, or missing a vital category (such as math/reading/science proficiency). This eliminated many of the charter schools.
Several schools did not report certain categories of data (such as achievement gap) for privacy reasons. For those schools, we proportionally redistributed the potential points for that category to their other categories.
A Guide to the Chart
This list ranks public schools by their overall scores, with separate rankings for elementary schools, middle schools and high schools.
The statewide school system is divided into seven administrative districts, including O‘ahu’s HONolulu, CENtral, LEEward and WINdward districts; the Big Island’s HAWai‘i district; Maui, Moloka‘i and Lāna‘i’s MAUi district; and the KAUa‘i district. Some CHARter schools are also included.
4. TITLE I
Indicating, Yes or No, whether the school was a Title I school in 2016–17, meaning at least 40 percent of a school’s students were from low-income families, as defined by the federal government.
5. MATH, 6. READING, 7. SCIENCE
The percentage of students enrolled the full school year that scored proficient or higher in these three subjects on assessments that include Smarter Balanced Assessments in English Language Arts (ELA) and math; HSA science and high-school Biology I end-of-course exams; HSA alternate assessments in ELA, math and science; and the Kaiapuni Assessment of Educational Outcomes.
8. MATH GROWTH, 9. READING GROWTH
A school’s median (middle) student growth percentile, which measures how much individual students progressed from one year to the next, in math and ELA.
10. CHRONIC ABSENTEEISM RATE (ELEMENTARY AND MIDDLE SCHOOLS)
Indicates the percentage of students enrolled for the full school year who missed 15 or more days of school.
11. MATH GAP RATE, 12. ELA GAP RATE (ELEMENTARY AND MIDDLE SCHOOLS)
This number measures the achievement gap between high-need students and non-high-need students for 2016–17, by comparing the percentage of each group of students who scored proficient or above in math and ELA. A smaller percentage-point spread is better.
13. GRADUATION RATE (HIGH SCHOOL)
The four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate, based on the percentage of a high school’s students that graduated within four years.
14. COLLEGE-GOING RATE (HIGH SCHOOL)
The percentage of a high school’s graduates that enrolled in college by fall of the next year.
15. 2016 FINAL SCORE, 16. 2017 FINAL SCORE
The school’s overall score, out of 400 points. The 2016 scores have been recalculated using this year’s formulas for a direct comparison.
A letter grade assigned by HONOLULU Magazine, based on a standard curve using the school’s index scores.
Indicates that data is not available, usually because the DOE has redacted results from small classes/schools for privacy reasons.