Hawaiʻi's Technology Community

You Can't Have Innovation Without Education

We now have the great distinction of the shortest school year in the nation - 163 days. The national average is 180. Japan averages 243 and China averages 251. These countries also have longer school days allowing them to cover more subjects in greater depth. The sad fact of the matter is that our children will be ill prepared to compete in an increasingly interconnected world.

The legislature should immediately enact a law establishing a minimum number of school days, thereby making furloughs that shorten the school year illegal. This would end the current furloughs and prevent any future jackassery. Shortening our school year should never have been on the table. I don't understand why our governor has left the majority of this critical negotiation to her policy adviser, and I don't know how HSTA ever allowed this to be considered. Governor - You claim to have committed to establishing an innovation economy in Hawaii. How can we do that when we have the lowest standards for education in the country? We need to graduate competitive students to have a competitive workforce. HSTA - Please think of the students first and yourselves second. While the purpose of your union is to improve work conditions for teachers, which is admirable, your first responsibility as educators is to ensure our students receive a quality education. Please keep your priorities straight.

I believe we should pass a bill establishing a minimum of 200 schools days with at least seven hours of instruction per day. This would at least move us into the ballpark of other developed countries. Is it affordable? Countries with far less money have longer school years. Russia's economy is a disaster. They have 210. They've simply made it more of a priority.

I have great respect for the community leaders who are taking action on this issue. Notably, James Koshiba of Kanu Hawaii, who has spent months engaged in email campaigns, working through the Kanu site, and promoting vigils. I urge all members of the TechHui community to support his initiatives to end the furloughs and pass legislation to prevent this crime from being perpetrated on future generations of public school children in Hawaiʻi. We can't build an innovation economy without the foundation of a sound school system.

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Comment by Daniel Leuck on April 11, 2010 at 8:29pm
Aloha Michael - I believe the DoE could do a much better job of transferring best practices from the charter schools and private schools. Why reinvent the wheel? Punahou is enjoying enormous savings by switching to Google apps for email, shared calendars and file sharing. Why not engage them? They have offered to share their experiences. Many charter schools are doing amazing work. Why does the DoE step all over them?
Comment by Michael Bishop on April 11, 2010 at 8:22pm
Good time to jump on the public charter school wagon. They are suppose to be the innovation arm of the DOE anyway. They are autonomous and create their own policies. As such, most did not do furloughs. Each school decided which way to go. Staff took pay cuts (!), laid-off less essential staff and every one pitched in to handle it, parents volunteered in the office, etc. Charter Schools == Innovation.

A recent major initiative for basic innovation is a Grant called Race to the Top. It's a 4 Billion (with a B!) Fund to "go to States that are leading the way with ambitious yet achievable plans for implementing coherent, compelling, and comprehensive education reform. Race to the Top winners will help trail-blaze effective reforms and provide examples for States and local school districts throughout the country to follow as they too are hard at work on reforms that can transform our schools for decades to come."

At the end of March, "Delaware is to be awarded about $100 million and Tennessee about $...

Hawaii at least got it's app in at least unlike other states that didn't apply. However, when it came to "Ensuring successful conditions for high-performing charter schools and other innovative schools", we got 17 out of 40. On an A-F scale, we flunked innovation. We got A's and B's on most everything else at least, but we didn't get the grant and flunked on key parts. Check on the details.

We got in at 22nd place out of 41 applicants. The Legislature is starting to make changes, so hopefully we'll be more innovative in the future and a piece of the 4 Billion would be really helpful. Star Bulletin article.

Perhaps I'm a bit biased having worked with the charter schools from the inside and the outside. Regardless, they stand on their merit. I encourage you to visit a charter school in your area, they are amazing innovative resourceful schools.
Comment by Sustain Hawaii on April 11, 2010 at 6:56pm
Perhaps we need innovation of education to get innovation with eduction? We can think of this crisis as an opportunity for positive change and badly needed
transformation in public education? Dr. Daniel H. Kim (co-founder of the MIT Organizational Learning Center) will be in Hawaii this month. He uses tools from systems dynamics and related fields to create long-term dialogues designed to suspend participants’ thinking about their own organizational objectives and instead focus on the core purpose and values of a state’s public education system. Sounds like the perfect person to have a very timely discussion with.
TDPE Concept Paper-v3.0.6b.pdf
Comment by Daniel Leuck on April 11, 2010 at 6:41pm
A video sent to us by GB Hajim:
Comment by Daniel Leuck on April 11, 2010 at 5:57pm
Boris Ning: Is there any study that says a certain number of school days is necessary for students to do much better?

Every country that beats us in standardized tests for math and science has a longer school year. The evidence is incontrovertible. Do you honestly think a Hawaiian student with 163 days of instruction averaging 6 hours at best can compete with a Chinese student receiving 251 days with 7-8 hours of instruction per day? They cannot. Make no mistake, this is a crisis.

Boris Ning: Realistically, I don't think we can increase the number of school days. Even holding on to what we have right now proves to be unaffordable for Hawaii.

I couldn't disagree more strongly. If we take this view, we are dooming ourselves to domination by foreign entities. Hawaii wastes millions on everything from antiquated IT systems to boondoggle projects. With real leadership we can control spending, increase the number of hours of instruction our children receive, and achieve the type of quality education we owe our children. 

Comment by Boris Ning on April 11, 2010 at 5:30pm
Looking back last year in March, Hawaii had a short fall of roughly 400 million dollars. Everybody knew it was only going to get worse, but it didn't seem like anything was being done. We pushed all the debt accumulated at that time to July and settled the balance sheet for the year with apparently no debt. The state government spends roughly 25% of it's budget on education and roughly about half of that on health care.

The government didn't start looking for ways to cut back until well into school year. It's not such a wonder how they came up with the stupid solution of just simply cutting school days to make up for the precious budget.

Is there any study that says a certain number of school days is necessary for students to do much better?
Realistically, I don't think we can increase the number of school days. Even holding on to what we have right now proves to be unaffordable for Hawaii. While it is true that countries with far less money have longer school days, their standard of living, average income, source of income are also very different from ours.
It is true though, that we do not value our education.

@Nate Sanders: What do you consider as skyrocketing in house prices? According to the historical annual house prices compiled by the Hawaii Board of Realtors,, single family home prices increase by 5.5% every year, beating out inflation by a relatively large margin. That, to me, is skyrocketing already. By the rule of 72, that also means that in about 13 years, home prices would double (a million dollar + for a median single family home).
Comment by Mika Leuck on April 11, 2010 at 4:19pm
Hi Nate. I agree. The value system has to change with regard to education or the state will look very different in 20 years. Ownership will be very different.

Japan used to have even longer school years. Growing up in Japan, I went to school on Saturdays and had eight hours of instruction per day. Kids need time to play and be social, but 200 days isn't going to affect that. Its far fewer than I had.
Comment by Nate Sanders on April 11, 2010 at 3:07pm
This isn't directly related to the furloughs, but I think it could be related to the same value system: The UH Manoa library system has the fewest hours of any higher education system I've ever seen. This includes several community colleges. I haven't done any research on this, but I'd easily bet that it has the fewest hours of library service of any flagship state school in the nation.

This may be a reflection of the use of the library, but either way it's a very bad indication.

I think it's easy for people to say things like "but the way of life is better overall here" or something of that nature. The problem is that when you participate in the global economy and the value of your goods isn't as much as that of other regions, those people come in and buy your land and you end up working for them. Ex-Californians have taken over parts of Oregon and Colorado and made it so that housing and land prices have skyrocketed in those areas, while job salaries remain roughly the same. Maybe Hawaii needs to be scared into this sort of scenario to take real action.


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