Native Hawaiian Students’ Achievement Gap in Reading: A Longitudinal Study From Hawaii


February 2015


Native hawaiian student writing in a classroom

The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 helps to focus attention on ethnicity-related inequity in public education. However, its definition of ethnicity-related disadvantage is problematic in Hawaii for two main reasons. First, the historically disadvantaged Native Hawaiians are included in the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) category. In other words, their disadvantage is practically ignored for NCLB purposes. Second, NCLB relies on a simplistic difference in the proportion of proficient students between a minority group and the White peers, ignoring confounding factors such as social-economic inequities and differences in school qualities.

Those concerns call for a more careful and more meaningful measure of ethnicity-related disadvantage for Hawaii. This paper reports a cross-classified multilevel analysis of the reading performance of Native Hawaiian students on the Hawaiian State Assessment (HSA) from grade 3 to grade 10. Achievement gaps between Native Hawaiians and their White peers were estimated at grades 8 and 10 respectively, with academic readiness statistically controlled for. Policy implications of ethnicity-related disadvantage thus measured are discussed.

This paper was presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association in April 2014 and won the Hawai‘i Educational Research Association's 2014 Distinguished Paper award.