Secretary’s Thank You Letter for Hawaii ESEA Flexibility

November 8, 2012

Kathryn Matayoshi
Hawaii State Department of Education
1390 Miller Street
Room 300
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813

Dear Superintendent Matayoshi:

Thank you for submitting Hawaii’s request for ESEA flexibility. We appreciate the hard work required to transition to college- and career-ready standards and assessments; develop a system of differentiated recognition, accountability, and support; and evaluate and support teacher and leader effectiveness. The U.S. Department of Education (Department) is encouraged that Hawaii and many other States are designing rigorous plans to increase the quality of instruction and improve student academic achievement.

Hawaii’s request was reviewed by a panel of six peer reviewers during the week of October 1-5, 2012. During the review, the peers considered each component of Hawaii’s request and provided comments in the form of Peer Panel Notes that the Secretary will use to inform any revisions to your request that may be needed to meet the principles of ESEA flexibility. The Peer Panel Notes, a copy of which is enclosed with this letter, also provide feedback on the strengths of Hawaii’s request and areas that would benefit from further development. The Department’s ESEA flexibility team has also carefully reviewed Hawaii’s request, taking into account the Peer Panel Notes, to determine consistency with the ESEA flexibility principles.

The peers noted, and the Department’s ESEA flexibility team agrees, that Hawaii’s request was particularly strong with respect to the plan to implement college- and career-ready standards. For example, the peers noted that Hawaii’s standards transition plan comprehensively addressed the needs of English Learners and students with disabilities.

At the same time, based on the peer reviewers’ comments and our review of the materials Hawaii has provided to date, we have identified certain components of your request that need further clarification, additional development, or revision. In particular, concerns were identified with respect to the following:

  • The use of the “high-needs” and “non-high-needs” combined subgroups, and the potential masking of the low performance of students in ESEA subgroups;
  • The weighting of the elements of Hawaii’s Academic Performance Index; and
  • The rigor of interventions required in priority schools.

The enclosed list provides details regarding these concerns, as well as other key issues raised in the review of Hawaii’s request, that must be addressed before the Secretary can approve your request for ESEA flexibility. We encourage Hawaii to consider all of the peers’ comments and technical assistance suggestions in making revisions to its request, but we encourage you to focus primarily on addressing the concerns identified on the enclosed list.

Furthermore, as described in the document titled ESEA Flexibility Frequently Asked Questions, in deciding to approve a State educational agency’s (SEA) request for flexibility, the Department may take into account instances of substantial or recurring non-compliance with statutory and regulatory requirements applicable to Department programs under which the SEA receives funds. The Department is concerned about Hawaii’s status as a high-risk grantee under the Race to the Top program and its significant monitoring findings and grant conditions related to the oversight of the School Improvement Grants program. The Department’s ESEA flexibility team will discuss these concerns more fully with you as we continue to review Hawaii’s request for ESEA flexibility.

Although the Peer Panel Notes for Hawaii provide information specific to your request, Hawaii may also benefit from comments and technical assistance suggestions made by other peer panels regarding issues common to multiple State educational agencies’ (SEA) requests. For this reason, Department staff will reach out to Hawaii to provide relevant technical assistance suggestions and other considerations that may be useful as you revise and refine your request.

We remain committed to working with Hawaii to meet the principles of ESEA flexibility and improve outcomes for all students. We stand ready to work with Hawaii as quickly as possible. In order to ensure prompt consideration of revisions or additional materials, we are asking SEAs to submit those revisions or materials by November 30, 2012. Department staff will be in touch to set up a call as early as this week to discuss the timeline and process for providing revisions or materials.

You and your team deserve great credit for your efforts thus far, and I am

confident that the Department’s ESEA flexibility team will be able to work with your staff to address outstanding concerns. If you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact Grace Ross at 202-260-0967. Thank you for your continued commitment to all of Hawaii’s children.



Deborah S. Delisle
Assistant Secretary

cc: Stephen Schatz, Assistant Superintendent for the Office of Strategic Reform


Secretary's Thank You Letter for Hawaii ESEA Flexibility