This was written by Terry George and Alex Harris, who are president/CEO and senior program officer for education, respectively, of the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation, which makes grants to strengthen leadership in Hawaii's schools.
If you've read the newspaper lately, you might be worried about all the reforms in public education — new Common Core standards, teacher evaluations, Strive HI.
What does this mean for your kindergartner? What will teaching and learning be like as today's kindergartners make their way through elementary, middle and high school in pursuit of a high school diploma in 2027?
There is a lot of good news for parents and their children. Big changes are underway in Hawaii's public schools and they didn't come about by happenstance.
Our appointed Board of Education (BOE) has set a clear direction embodied in a seven-year Strategic Plan, designed to prepare students for success in college, careers and as citizens.
New Common Core learning standards and high school graduation requirements set appropriately high expectations for what students must know and be able to accomplish. These standards promise a far richer, more rigorous education where students develop the complex thinking that employers demand and our community needs.
Right now, more than 90 percent of the Department of Education (DOE) budget is devoted to schools. Principals set their own improvement strategy and curriculum to meet school-specific performance goals based on the state's overall goals. Principals also evaluate and develop the staff to meet these goals.
This is all taking place for one reason: so graduates can have rewarding careers and grow into true citizens of Hawaii.
Sadly, the days are over when most high school graduates can get a good, well-paying job without a college degree or postsecondary credential. By the time your kindergartner has completed elementary school, two thirds of all new jobs in Hawaii will require some education beyond high school.
For many years, not enough of Hawaii's schoolchildren reached college and graduated. In 2008, only 13 out of every 100 ninth graders went on to receive a college degree on time. What happened to the other 87? Unfortunately, many of them were forced to take low-paying jobs, and raising a family for them became a financial struggle.
But the BOE and DOE's new direction shows clear evidence that this is already changing. State tests reveal real learning gains in reading and math, results that are matched by our state's performance on the "Nation's Report Card."
Remarkably, Hawaii led the nation in performance gains over the past 10 years. Growth of this magnitude is like adding a full 11/2 years to a student's K-12 experience.
More students than ever before are taking and passing Advanced Placement courses, graduating high school and attending college. As public school graduates enter college, the number that require remediation has gone down.
Teachers and administrators are working hard to restructure schools and classrooms so that students achieve these new Common Core goals. Armed with Google Glass and wireless laptops, for example, students in Keaau Elementary School visit the nearby volcano or the streets of Mexico City with equal ease. And at Palolo Elementary, all students now wrestle with global warming and renewable energy challenges.
So don't worry, Mom and Dad. Your child's teachers are working hard so that our kindergartners today will have every tool they'll need to be successful as they move toward high school graduation in 2027.
Ask your teachers how you can help; after all, parents are a child's most important teachers.