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

For more than a decade, HONOLULU Magazine has critically examined public education in Hawaii. 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 inHawaii’s public education system.

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: This question is from Maurene in Ewa Beach. She says: Communication between parents and teachers has become less frequent and less personable. Report cards are the only instances in which I get feedback from the teacher, and I never know there are problems until that time. I don’t receive calls from the teachers, or staff at the school, but instead get automated messages when my child skips a day, for instance. What are the criteria set in place for communication between parents and teachers? What is being done to ensure that the parent is knowledgeable about how their child is doing?

A: Kathryn Matayoshi: There are some things we’re trying to work on, on a statewide level, … including more electronic access to information about students so parents can go online and see how their child is doing on their homework, on their testscores and get comments [online] back and forth from teachers. It’s convenient for many people, because you can access it when you’re available and you don’t have to try to meet up [with the teacher] or play telephone tag [with them]. But it doesn’t work for everyone, so one of our cautions has always been, it’s great to have another tool to use to communicate, but it doesn’t take the place of face-to-face communication. I think part of it is that there is a lot going on in schools and we really need to focus on how we can balance the workloads of teachers.

A: Don Horner: The relationship between the teacher and parent is critical because education is a partnership. The parent indeed is an integral part of that education. One of the challenges is the administrative burden of the classroom. We did a survey [that found] that upwards of 40 percent of the classroom time is spent on administrative burdens. You can multiply that more when it gets to the principal level. Our goal, with the [department] reorganization is to separate the academics from the administration … to take that administrative burden out of the classroom and out of the schools. An important part of that is technology, some of that is training and some of that is evaluations.

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: How is the DOE helping poor-performing schools?

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