July 2009

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"Do Teacher’s Make the Grade?" and "What’s the Difference?" May 2009 issue

Our annual look at Hawaii’s public-school system included A. Kam Napier’s discussion of the Department of Education in his Editor’s Page, which showed that, despite similar demographics, Maryland has one of the best public-school systems in the country, while Hawaii has one of the worst. Senior writer Michael Keany’s feature, “Do Teachers Make the Grade?” examined teacher performance.



“Teachers continue to teach the same way my great-grandmother taught in the late 1800s. … Essentially we’re preparing our kids for the early 1900s.”





What story has been most viewed and commented about?

It’s senior writer Michael Keany’s story on our schools, “Do Teachers Make the Grade?” Visit, and you’ll also find our popular feature, “Grading the Public Schools,” which was updated in 2008, as well as information on our state’s private schools.


“Pardon me, but no self-respecting German would even dream of using a baguette as the
underpinnings for sliced radish. It’s got to be dark, sourdough rye—something not available in Honolulu, but easy enough to bake.”—RIKE WEISS

Want the whole story? Check out our Farm to Table insert.


Thank you very much for addressing and enlightening the public about its public educational system. About six years ago I had reached a similar conclusion regarding all the problems that the Department of Education (DOE) faces. After 12 years of service in Hawaii’s public-school system, I left. The system is broken.

I have seen numerous superintendents, programs, philosophies and jargons come and go over the years. All started out with good intentions. However, they only added more layers of bureaucracy and busy work. More money was spent with few results. In the end, in the classroom where the teachers and students interact, nothing changes. The DOE only keeps getting bigger and more expensive.

At a conference back when I was teaching, I was told by a lawyer who represented the DOE that the DOE only needs to provide a VW Beetle (i.e. basic education) and not a Mercedes (i.e. high-quality education). The lawyer’s analogy was that both have four wheels and will get you from point A to point B. If you want something better, you as a taxpayer should pay for it. If this is the DOE’s case, let me as a taxpayer make the final choice as to how my tax money is spent, not the government or the DOE.

The DOE has become a bureaucratic animal that has lost control.


The only thing that might pertain to your education comparison of Maryland to Hawaii is the structure of the machinery tasked with delivering education. Maryland has a decentralized delivery system and Hawaii has a centralized system. When our governor began her duties seven years ago, one of her first tasks dealt with this very matter. As I recall she proposed a shift in the structure of the DOE, one that would create more command and control at the local levels of the administrative bureaucracy. I know this effort failed after a serious attempt, but I am not sure why it did. I know the Legislature did not support the governor. The state could certainly be doing a much better job serving our children. They are the losers, and they are innocent.



 Ahana koko lele

In our May Making A Difference story, “Books as Building Blocks,” Jarrett Middle School is in Palolo, not in Kalihi. In that same issue, our Field Guide story on Waialua Sugar Mill, the company 38 Print creates decals and stickers that read “Keep the North Shore Country.”