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0niveisity of Bawai!i West O!ahu

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If you are trying to "fix" the education system without the active support and involvement of the
teachers, it will not work. Period. In the end, it is what happens in the classroom, between our
students and our teachers, that determines whether or not our system of education will be

And the paths we follow to find the answers to the clearly unacceptable situation in which we
find ourselves today must include hearing what teachers have to say. This project begins that
journey: it listens to what teachers have to say. The report shares both the conclusions of that
listening and the actual words of teachers themselves. And the power of a teacher's words
cannot be understated. Everyone who cares about where we are headed needs to read these
words and even more, needs to hear the actual voices of our teachers.

Robbie Alm
Executive Vice President
Hawaiian Electric Company
Proud Public School Parent

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Listening to Teachers
Pathways to Renewing our Commitment to Hawaii’s Teachers


In the summer of 2012, Faith Action for Community Equity (FACE Hawaii) designed
and began conducting a Hawaii Teacher Listening Campaign. They have collected
responses from educators in both face-to-face interviews and an online questionnaire. To
date, over 50 teachers from around the state have provided feedback about their work in
the classroom and their perspectives of their chosen profession. In interview after
interview the teachers report a deeply felt commitment to their students. They explain
how they routinely make personal sacrifices and go to great lengths to educate our
community’s children. Their stories are heartwarming and inspirational. However, too
many of these teachers also describe how they feel stuck in a school system that lacks
adequate support and resources, and how the natural flow and productivity of their day-
to-day teaching practices are increasingly stifled by bureaucratic hurdles. Such
impressions are not hard to understand given the context. Hawaii’s teachers have lost
approximately $180 million in pay in the past four years,
while federal initiatives,
including Race to the Top, require Hawaii’s schools to convert to new teacher evaluation
systems and nationally aligned standards.

The stories told by Hawaii’s teachers are echoed nationally. The MetLife Survey of the
American Teacher reports that while 98 percent of the nation’s principals continue to rate
the teachers in their schools as doing an excellent or pretty good job, teacher satisfaction
is at its lowest point in 25 years.
Over half of the teachers surveyed reported that they
felt under “great stress” throughout the week. In addition, more than half of the surveyed
principals and teachers report that their school budgets have decreased over the last year
and that managing current resources to meet school needs is “very challenging.”
2011, K-12 funding was slashed in 33 states and the District of Columbia,
many programs including those focused on reform and professional development.

Longitudinal data systems focused on student test scores and teacher accountability are
being promoted across the country. While data driven evaluation is an important part of
current education reform efforts, even if one assumes that a computer program can
meaningfully assess student progress, the troubling message sent by this approach is that
teachers are not competent enough or caring enough to accurately assess the progress of
their own students. Moreover, as increasing numbers of government run, computer-based
evaluation systems are implemented, practitioners are beginning to criticize them as
adding another layer of unhelpful bureaucracy.

The debate on education reform has amplified the voices of policy makers, powerful
education foundations and a few individuals who have managed to reach near celebrity
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status while contributing to the national conversation on education reform. However, up
till now, this conversation has lacked a clear understanding of the perspectives of
everyday educators. Somehow, the debate on what happens in our nation’s classrooms
has not effectively included the voices of those who actually run them.

This paper describes the results of the FACE Hawaii Teacher Listening Campaign
(HTLC). This Campaign started with the premise that hearing and taking seriously what
teachers have to say about what was happening in their schools is a critical component of
any effort to improve education in Hawaii. HTLC is not a formal qualitative research
project; rather it is an honest attempt to open an ongoing conversation with Hawaii’s
teachers and to hear their stories and perspectives regarding their everyday professional

Discussion on Key Findings

1. Hawaii’s Teachers Are Dedicated

! To Students

The first pattern that emerges when reading the HTLC feedback is that Hawaii’s
teachers give so much of themselves to education because they respect children.
Over and over again teachers state the best part of teaching is the “wonderful” and
“awesome” students. As a critical part of being a teacher, one teacher describes
her work as “to value children, to lead, to guide them to learn who they are, and
how valuable they are to God, humanity, and country.”

Teachers describe deep feelings of loyalty
and commitment to the well-being of
every single child they teach. They
recognize “the diversity of the students”
and “the culture they bring to the
classroom,” as well as how much teachers
learn from students. Students are admired, discussed as the “unseen harvest” and
the “future” of Hawaii and the world. “Meaningful relationships” between
student and teacher are part of every day teaching in Hawaii. One teacher shares
how she appreciates “talking and relating with young people. I enjoy spending
time with them – being a listening ear to them, providing advice, and giving them
insights on life.” Hawaii’s teachers are dedicated to building relationships with
students, to creating classrooms where teachers listen and respond to students, and
doing the hard work needed to build relationship-based educational foundations
that supports long-term student learning.

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! To Teaching

Hawaii’s teachers are passionate about providing rigorous, deep, and connected
learning experiences for every student they encounter. They cite how they teach
“through projects, cooperative learning and infusing culture and connections to
their [students’] homes and their lives.” One teacher, working with low-income
students, views all children as “capable” of doing all work; demonstrating a
commitment to equitable and thoughtful educational experiences and
achievement, regardless of socio-economic background. “Teamwork” and
“participatory learning,” along with collaboration across disciplines and inclusion,
are becoming commonplace practices in Hawaii’s schools. The net result is that
students are pushed to see beyond singular subjects and engage in critical thought.
One teacher shares her work in a first-grade classroom,

I enjoy teaching children to think about things, to explore new ideas and to
create ways to express their own thoughts on paper in words or in an art
form or a poem or song. In Grade One, children learn to interpret written
symbols and use these letters to develop their own stories and /or ability to
write down what is important to them. I love seeing children blossom as
readers and writers and grow as thinkers.

2. Hawaii’s Teachers Are Concerned

! About Inadequate Educational Resources and Support

Hawaii’s teachers are expected to implement every mandate, as well as meet the
needs of students each day, and they do this with inadequate support. One teacher

Funding should not be an issue – but there is not enough funding. The
process of getting supplies [is difficult]. Adequate personnel - that is,
support staff including custodial, kitchen, secretary - are all important for
me to do my job. For example, we have had no librarian for over 5 years.
At one point the question was, “Can we approve classroom cleaners?” It
got to that point. But, classroom cleaners were retained. Otherwise, the
teachers would have to do it.

This is an example of a routine aspect of education in Hawaii. Teachers discuss a
lack of books, unequipped science labs, outdated technology, and high student-
teacher ratios. The problem of inadequacy moves beyond a lack of material items
and includes a lack of support enacted by policy makers and state education
officials. Teachers worry that policy makers and education officials often “lack a
true understanding of the challenges faced in the classrooms” and because of this
they do not give teachers enough time and space to respond to required directives.
A middle school math teacher says,
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Mandates, programs, initiatives need more thorough planning, regarding
implementation…if something new is going to be placed on teacher’s
plates, something else needs to give (and be taken off their plates).

Lack of support extends to services for students with special needs, as teachers are
expected to complete all related paperwork (which is “overwhelming”), reporting,
and referral processes, with little or no help.

Hawaii’s teachers understand that policymakers and local government contribute
to the lack of educational resources and support, “legislators who make so many
promises, promises which were not kept, nothing, no support.” Teachers view the
government influence on support all the way to the Governor’s Office, with the
execution of furloughs and impact on retirement benefits.

! About the Lopsided Influence of Outside Mandates

Hawaii’s teachers are deeply committed to the students they serve and continue to
be positive about their work with children, despite outside pressures. Numerous
teachers shared how the “over-emphasis on standardized testing” has limited how
and what teachers teach. Hawaii’s teachers worry that No Child Left Behind and
Race to the Top have stripped away their professional “freedom.” The demands
of outside agencies are cited by the teachers as impossible to reach, “I have come
to the realization that my best will never be enough to meet the demands of
administration, parents, the Board of Education, the Department of Education, and
the State.” One teachers says,

“[We are] being held accountable without having any control. The
Department of Education is handing down decisions without concern for
the teachers and the students in the classroom and the impact on learning.”

Teachers describe a feeling of being “trapped”
in the teaching profession, which is framed by
unattainable expectations, troubling salary
concerns, and a growing perception of
disrespect for teachers. “It is very
demoralizing to leave the classroom everyday
and realize that even though you gave it your
all, it was not good enough.” One teacher
expressed her own feelings of being
“powerless” as she works “over 60 hours per
week” and can never catch-up. “Bureaucracy”
through unnecessary meetings, paperwork,
and inappropriate expectations is identified as
“a waste of time and potentially demoralizing”
for teachers and students.

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Administrative decisions to remove arts and physical education, and to limit
recess time for even elementary-aged students, further demonstrates how
bureaucracy controls the day, and teacher voices do not. “Everyone seems to
know what is best for education, yet it seems our professional opinions as
teachers in the field seem to matter very little.”

The Disconnect Between Hawaii’s Dedicated Teachers and Accountability Mania

Accountability has been one of the most frequently used words in recent education
reform policy. School districts are to be held accountable for the money they spend by
reporting their spending in clear and transparent ways. Teachers are to be held
accountable for how well they teach, by linking specific student test score data with
specific teachers. Students are to be held accountable for their academic growth by
measuring it against clear and consistent standards.

The Hawaii Department of Education’s 10 Year Strategic Plan states, “[b]y 2018, we
envision accountability [a]s a standard operating procedure.”
However, what resonates
when reading the stories and responses of the Hawaii Teacher Listening Campaign is that
our teachers are talented, passionate, and extremely dedicated professionals. In short,
Hawaii’s teachers are already accountable.

For example, in interview after interview, the
teachers mentioned that they spend their own
money on classroom supplies. They purchase
everything from instructional materials, laboratory
supplies and basic classroom furnishings. But
more than that, they buy “socks, slippers, and
food for our students who have not.” This fact of
teaching life in Hawaii is so commonplace that
most won’t raise an eyebrow when hearing it,
once again. But, when reading in response after
response how teachers described this aspect of
their work, with compassion and without self-pity or self-aggrandizement, a haunting and
new understanding begins to emerge. Hawaii’s teachers are forced to make a profound
professional and moral decision, everyday. And, the decision so many of them
consistently make is to pull financial resources away from their own lives, their own
families’, because they know that this is the only way to ensure that our children will get
what they need and deserve in order to have a chance at succeeding in the classroom.
Think about this for a moment, in the context of accountability. These are individuals
who voluntarily use their own money to guarantee that their students get the educational
resources they need to learn and achieve academically. If this is not the epitome of
teacher accountability, we don’t know what is.

The Hawaii Teacher Listening Campaign isn’t the only thing collecting evidence that
supports the idea that our teachers are highly accountable. The federal National Center
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of Expeiience
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for Educational Statistics recently published the results of the National Assessment of
Educational Progress (NAEP). They, and the Hawaii Department of Education, reported
that Hawaii’s students performed extremely well. Jack Buckley, the National Center for
Education Statistics Commissioner said,

In 2011, only one state, Hawaii, demonstrated statistically significant
improvement in both reading and mathematics at both the fourth and eighth
grades. We commend Hawaii for their performance on the 2011 NAEP
assessments and are encouraged by their continued growth in student

While the Hawaii Department of Education (HDOE) has been working to implement a
state-wide testing data system that allows teachers to be evaluated by the test scores of
their students, it will not be fully implemented until the 2014-2015 school year.
even without the threat of evaluation by student test scores, the 2011 NAEP gains show
that Hawaii’s teachers have already been preparing their students in ways that allow them
to perform well on national standardized tests. And, if teacher accountability is
evidenced by student performance on national standardized tests, it seems clear that
Hawaii’s teachers are already accountable.

Despite the evidence that Hawaii’s teachers already seem accountable, the HDOE seems
transfixed by the idea that they are not. In fact, as we mention above, they are moving
ahead with plans to implement a state-wide assessment data system focused on teacher
accountability. And, they have spent a staggering amount of money on it. Millions.
Annually. A recently released Brookings Institution report reveals that Hawaii spends
$10,109,334, annually, on its main assessment contract. The report goes on to say that
of the 45 states from which data was collected, Hawaii spends “by far the most on
testing on a per-student basis.”
There is something desperately wrong with this picture.
There is a disturbing disconnect between the passionate, dedicated and accountable
manner in which Hawaii’s teachers conduct themselves every day, and the view of
Hawaii’s policy makers and education officials that our teachers need expensive,
bureaucratic, government run assessment systems in order to behave accountably.

That Hawaii’s teachers need to behave accountably goes without question. And, we
argue that they do. However, what is not often said by politicians and state education
officials is that accountability is a two-way street. While Hawaii’s teachers must be held
accountable, so too must Hawaii’s education officials and policy makers. Below, is a set
of recommendations that may help Hawaii’s officials and policy makers to better live up
to their end of the accountability agreement.

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1. Put Teacher Voices at the Center of the Conversation on Education Reform in Hawaii

! Supportive Leadership

Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation recently released a
nationwide survey called, Primary Sources: 2012. In it teachers were asked what
factors were “absolutely essential” to keeping them in the classroom. The leading
response (68 percent) was “supportive leadership.”
This mirrors comments
expressed throughout the Hawaii Teacher Listening Campaign interviews, where
teachers said what they needed most was “support from an administration that
would listen to [their] ideas and give them respectful consideration.”

! Less Government Driven Testing

Primary Sources: 2012 also reported that 62 percent of teachers said that ongoing
assessment that is integrated into instruction and therefore provides immediate
feedback is the best measure of student progress. And, they report that the worst
measures of student progress are tests from textbooks (4 percent), district-required
tests (6 percent), state required standardized tests (7 percent). Only 5 percent of
the nation’s teachers strongly agreed that state standardized tests were
“meaningful benchmarks.” This too is reflected in the HTLC feedback where one
teacher claims that “[t]esting mania has practically ruined every aspect of the
school week for teachers as well as students.”

! Useful and Constructive Evaluation

Teachers indicated in their HTLC responses that they were willing to be
evaluated. But they want to be evaluated through a professional process that is
“fair,” “bias” free, and reasonably implemented. They want this process to focus
on helping them improve on areas of weakness. And, they don’t want this process
to be so invasive that it impedes their ability to teach effectively. One teacher
reports that she has “been evaluated 25 times this school year.”

! Realistic Comprehensive Support for Students

The Scholastic and Gates survey reports that when teachers are asked about
challenges in the classroom, they indicate an increase of students with serious
behavioral problems. They also focus on the difficulties that come with educating
the growing number of students who they teach who are living in poverty, who
arrive to their classrooms hungry and even homeless. Hawaii’s teachers describe
a similar set of challenges when they worry that “some students have tragic home
lives,” “serious behavior issues, family situations” and about students who are
only able to “attend classes once or twice a week.” Policy makers tend to
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misunderstand the level of need experienced by many of Hawaii’s students. But
our teachers do not, for they see it everyday.

! More Resources

While the national and local conversation on improving teaching effectiveness has
focused almost exclusively on data driven teacher evaluation systems, a recently
released report produced by the Education Trust highlights the importance of
focusing on improving teacher work conditions.
Among the reported ways of
improving the teaching and learning environment are; strengthening leadership
and building staff cohesion. Clearly, Hawaii’s teachers have indicated that their
increasingly poor work conditions impact their effectiveness in the classroom.
“[N]o one can really understand the difficult conditions…we work under.”
“Sadly there are 4 science teachers at my school who do not have equipped
science classrooms.” “Toilets deplorable - toilets don’t work – no supplies.”
“Termites.” “Classes hot and uncomfortable - Hard to teach and learn” “Schools
are breaking down.” It goes without saying that if teachers and students are not
provided with enough resources to ensure safe and appropriate school conditions,
teaching and learning suffers.

2. Launch a Teacher Led Alternative Education Budget Initiative

A group of teachers at Campbell High School, on Oahu, has initiated a protest
movement they are calling Hawaii Teachers Work to the Rules. This movement
is focused on the problem that Hawaii’s legislators do not allocate enough money
to Hawaii’s public schools to make them run effectively.
In an effort to do
something about this, the members of Hawaii Teachers Work to the Rules have
promoted a legislative bill designed to provide public schools with more money.
However, at the time of this report, it looks clear that this bill will not pass.

Clearly, the process Hawaii uses to determine its education budget remains
complicated, despite honest efforts to improve it in the past.
Yet, it seems just
as clear that this process is somehow still not getting the job done. It is time for a
fresh look. We need a new conversation about alternative ways of structuring the
education budget in Hawaii, a conversation built on the principles of equality and
fairness, as well as efficiency. We need a conversation focused on the long-term
health of public education in Hawaii, not short-term initiatives driven by private
industry. And, most importantly we need a conversation grounded on the
knowledge and perspectives of teachers.

A teacher led alternative education budget initiative is a good way to start this
conversation. The purpose of such an initiative would be to establish a working
group of stakeholders and experts who access and analyze current education
spending and its impact on schools. Then, based on this analysis, new alternative
proposals are to be identified, and finally a new alternative education budget is to
be drafted and disseminated.
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3. Establish a “Teacher for a Day” Program for Policy Makers, Outside Administrators
and Community Members

The Primary Sources: 2012 report claims that today’s teachers work, on average,
10 hours and 40 minutes a day, which is 3 hours and 20 minutes longer than the
average required school work day, in most
states. The point is that teaching is a
demanding job that requires disciplined
preparation routines and a tremendous amount
of professional energy. This is clearly
reflected in the Hawaii Teacher Listening
Campaign. “We come to work early, stay late,
and think about our work when we are away
from school.”

It is one thing to read about the realities of
teaching, and another thing to actually see
them with your own two eyes. “Teacher for a
Day” programs have been sprouting up around the country.
One model program
run by the New Jersey Education Association allows legislators, local officials
and other community members to be a “guest teacher” at a local school for an
entire school day.

Under the watchful eye of a regular classroom teacher, Guest Teachers
perform all the duties a teacher would do in a normal day - teaching class,
performing lunch and corridor duty, recess supervision, study halls - in
order to “walk a mile” in educators’ shoes.

Such programs have turned out to be wonderful vehicles for raising public
awareness of what teachers and schools actually do and for developing support for
teachers and students, “while dispelling the myth that teaching is a ‘cushy

4. Create a Hawaii Chapter of the National Teacher Union Reform Network of AFT and
NEA Locals (TURN)

The purpose of the Hawaii Teacher Listening Campaign is to raise teacher voices
and to get Hawaii’s policy makers and education officials to consider the views of
teachers when creating education reform policy. But getting politicians to
consider the views of Hawaii’s teachers when making education policy is easier
said than done.

What is needed is a systematic and organized way of bringing the views of
teachers to the decision-making table. The Teacher Union Reform Network of
AFT and NEA Locals (TURN) is dedicated to making this happen. “Because
teachers are closest to students, to the learning process, and because of their link
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of Expeiience
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to parents and the larger communities, [they] are in a unique position to
stimulate the necessary changes.”

TURN was born out of the recognition that current education reform and immense
funding cutbacks were undermining public education. It is a union-led effort
focused on challenging teacher union leaders to “explore, develop, and
demonstrate models that lead to the restructuring of unions so that they will
become more responsive and responsible in organizing around projects designed
to improve student learning.”

Concluding Remarks

This past November, FACE Hawaii held its Annual Oahu Interfaith Service, when more
than 200 people gathered at St. Andrews Episcopal Cathedral on a beautiful Thursday
evening. During the service, religious leaders from different faiths spoke, often in
different languages, about the important role that teachers play in the lives of children,
and in the life of a community. Several of these leaders shared moving personal stories
of past teachers who made a difference in their lives. Others called for a deeper
understanding of the need to recognize and commemorate teachers who are serving here,
today, in our own community.

The honesty of this message is heart wrenching. Hawaii’s teachers truly give so much of
themselves to our children and to our community. And, yet, we have not properly
understood the need to recognize their work and their contributions. Our policy makers
have not recognized it.

The FACE Hawaii Teacher Listening Campaign has listened to the stories and
perspectives of over 50 of Hawaii’s teachers. As a result, we have discovered that when
you actually listen to teachers - hear how much they care about our children and about the
future of Hawaii, understand how willingly they have sacrificed in order to ensure that all
of Hawaii’s children have a chance to learn and achieve in school, feel the enduring
enthusiasm they hold for the importance of education and the power of teaching – it is
easy to recognize, respect, and celebrate Hawaii’s teachers for all that they do.

We urge policy makers and education officials to listen to Hawaii’s teachers and to
consider their views when creating education reform policy. We have heard the
humorous anecdote that asking for more respect is like dissecting a frog – you can do it,
but then the frog dies. Yet, there is no denying that the direction of Hawaii’s schools and
the educational future for our children depends on whether or not policy makers and
education officials can begin to respect the voices of Hawaii’s teachers.

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See hsta.oig, (http:¡¡www.hsta.oig¡inuex.php¡news¡negotiations-upuate).
See, "NetLife Suivey of the Ameiican Teachei: Challenges foi School Leaueiship"
}ohnson, N., 0liff, P. anu Williams, E., "An 0puate 0n State Buugets Cuts. Centei foi Buuget anu
Policy Piioiities Retiieveu on Septembei 7, 2u1u"
0liff, P. anu }ohnson, N., "Piematuie Enu of Feueial Assistance to States Thieatens Euucation
Refoims anu }obs. Centei foi Buuget anu Policy Piioiities"
See, "Want to Ruin Teaching. uive Ratings"
See, "Buieauciatic Teachei Evaluations Biing No Change"
State of Bawaii Bepaitment of Euucation, "0veicoming Challenges: Supeiintenuent's 21Annual
See www.hawaiiuoeiefoim.oig, "NAEP: Bawaii stanus out in math anu ieauing gains"
Combineu Teachei Piesentation on Teachei Evaluations (http:¡¡hawaiiuoeiefoim.oig¡Teacheis-
Chingos, N., "Stiength in Numbeis: State Spenuing on K-12 Assessment Systems"
See, "Piimaiy Souices: 2u12 Ameiica's Teacheis on the Teaching Piofession"
See eutiust.oig, "Builuing anu Sustaining Talent: Cieating the Conuitions in Bigh-Poveity Schools
That Suppoit Effective Teaching anu Leaining"
REL West at WestEu, "School-baseu buugeting anu management," (http:¡¡ielwest-
The New }eisey Euucation Association, foi example, iuns a successful teachei foi a uay piogiam

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The Authois want to thank the FACE volunteeis who inteivieweu folks foi the
Bawaii Teachei Listening Campaign anu to the teacheis who agieeu to be
inteivieweu anu who iesponueu to the online questionnaiie. We also want to thank
the following people foi theii assistance in the piepaiation of this iepoit: Kaien
uinoza, Naiy Weii, Biew Astolfi, anu Coiey Rosenlee. Special thanks go to: Nichelle
Tanabe, }ohn Patiick 0nesta, anu Niluieu Tanabe.