Editor’s Page: Not Grading the Public Schools

In abnormal times, normal just won’t do.


Splash November Christi Young 2018 Editor

It is a list that has drawn ire, motivated change and sparked conversation, both heated and thoughtful, for almost 20 years. Since 2003, HONOLULU Magazine has published an annual ranking of Hawai‘i’s public schools along with in-depth articles about issues including chronic absenteeism, how top schools succeed, bullying, special education and safety. But when a pandemic upended the structure of school, doing the usual thing just didn’t make sense.


A federal waiver released schools from completing assessments at the end of the 2019-2020 school year when most across the nation were grappling with the unexpected transition to distance learning. That meant we no longer could base a chart on any measure of academic proficiency.


Beyond that, comparing the schools right now didn’t feel right. We know the challenges of the past year have been frustrating and, for some, infuriating. My daughter and I have struggled to share bandwidth and workspace for 12 months now. It hasn’t been easy for families or educators. In this issue, we shifted our focus to the students struggling the most: those who have not been able to get online at all. Writer Maria Kanai shows us the reasons are myriad and the solutions are anything but simple.


As of now, in-person classes could resume this summer. The state Department of Education is also implementing the 2020-2030 Promise Plan, which sets different baselines and indicators of student success. We don’t yet know what that will mean for our list, which helped set a new public standard in 2003. But you can trust that we will be taking a close look at the data and our state’s education post-pandemic and in the years to come.


Photo: Karen DB Photography



Christi Young


Got a good story? Reach me at christiy@honolulumagazine.com


Read all of these stories in the April issue of HONOLULU Magazine. Available on newsstands in March, or purchase the issue at shop.honolulumagazine.com. Subscribe to the print and digital editions now.