Hawaii Education Q&A: How is the DOE helping poor-performing schools?

photo: david croxford

For more than a decade, HONOLULU Magazine has critically examined the state’s public education system. As part of this year’s coverage, associate editor Tiffany Hill sat down with Kathryn Matayoshi, the state Department of Education superintendent, and Don Horner, the Board of Education chair, two of the most influential people in Hawaii’s public education.

The questions for this exclusive, video Q&A come from both the magazine staff and the public, and touch on a variety of subjects, such as what the department and board are doing to reverse negative public perceptions, how teacher evaluations will work, whether or not Matayoshi and Horner sent their children to public school and more.

Below is one bonus question not included in the video. To hear more, watch the video here. Read this year’s public education feature here. Visit honolulumagazine.com for additional education coverage.

Q: During our research, we found that lower-performing schools are receiving more funding than their high-performing counterparts. It’s an example of the weighted student formula in action. During our most recent feature, we spent time at Nanakuli High and Intermediate School as well as Moanalua High School. We found that Nanakuli receives $2,600 more per student in funding than does Moanalua. However, some teachers at Nanakuli told me that while funding is essential, it’s not a silver bullet for the personnel and administrative challenges that the school faces. How are those concerns being addressed?

A: Kathryn Matayoshi: There’s more funding under the weighted student formula for students with a number of factors, such as students who need more support for English language [learning], students with special needs, students who are in the free and reduced lunch program. Studies have shown, for example, that teachers are not only motivated by money, but really the overall climate at the school, and the support that they have for the work that they love, which is working with students. I think, in terms of supports [the teachers] are right, money isn’t everything. Money helps to provide additional services and personnel for students, and that’s a good thing. It can relieve the burden of teachers. Again, it’s a question of finding that support for the principal as the leader of the school. We keep talking about this organizational change. The fundamental thing is that you are really focusing that accountability, responsibility, authority and resources where they need to be. When you have really clear organizational lines, it allows for priorities to be placed at the school level, the complex level and the state level.


Want to read more of our education coverage from May 2012? Check out the links below.

A Tale of Two Schools in Hawaii

Video Q&A with Don Horner and Kathryn Matayoshi

From Iolani School to Moanalua High School: A Parents’ Tale

Q&A: What do schools have in place to ensure communication with parents?

Q&A: Why don't all public schools have midterms and final exam weeks?

Q&A: Why don't student representatives get a vote?

Q&A: Kamehameha Schools Focuses on Public Schools Along the Waianae Coast