Quite A Year For The State DOE

Larry Price
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Wednesday - January 09, 2008
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The year 2007 was quite a remarkable one for the Department of Education. There were so many noteworthy items providing fodder for the media - so many they are too numerous to recap, although some good and some not so good deserve another look.

Here are a few highlights you may recall: random drug testing for teachers; considering searches of students’ lockers; a rise in test scores; errors in standardized test scores; schools accused of being unfair to the homeless; challenges such as increasing graduation rates and decreasing the dropout rate; much-needed repairs to schools and (my personal favorite) deciding whether to extend the already shortened summer break for students. This issue is being considered to allow for students attending summer school to have enough time to complete their credits. It’s rather humorous that no one thought about this before the DOE decided to shorten the summer break.

What’s past is done, but hopefully 2008 will bring about more positive aspects for the DOE. T here were some positive things that occurred in the DOE this past year that warrant recognition. For instance, there was no major class action suit (such as the Felix Consent Decree). More schools received Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) reports. Certain schools made progress toward their restructuring goals. And a public school won the a state championship in football. Many more positive things happened in 2007, but these are the first to come to mind.

It appeared to me that the most important goal for the DOE in this new year is finalizing the draft of Chapter 60, the new and improved response to the reauthorized Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) regulations, which is supposed to replace Chapter 56, the former response to the old IDEA regulations. A little confusing to most, but let me try to explain.

IDEA was reauthorized in 2004. The final federal regulations were passed in 2006. Hawaii needed to formulate its response to the new federal regulations. Hence, Chapter 60 was born. However, we are now coming into 2008 and the final draft of Chapter 60 has not been issued. Two years late is not too bad - after all, it took Congress two years to finalize IDEA 2004.

What needs to be understood by the taxpayers is that, since Chapter 60 had not been finalized and adopted as “DOE Gospel,” Chapter 56 is still in effect. That is, unless, the federal regulation of IDEA offer more services than Chapter 56. In that case, IDEA 2004 would have to take precedence. If Chapter 56 provides for something that is not included in IDEA 2004, then those services take precedence.

To the DOE’s credit, it has begun to implement some of the changes stipulated by the federal regulations even before Chapter 60 is finalized.

One more thing: IDEA is now called IDEIA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act).

With so many teachers and parents waiting for Chapter 60 to become crystal clear by passing through public hearing and taking effect, the big question is: When will this all happen?

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