An Expectation of College

The public school system in Hawaii is charged with preparing our students for life. Life, increasingly, requires knowledge and skill sets that can best be achieved through a post-secondary education — from 2-year job certification to doctoral programs. Our Strategic Plan directs that more students be ready for and enroll in college. This page offers an overview of initiatives and results aligned with that effort.


​​​​Why college?​

We know that jobs of the future require more than a high school diploma. The impacts of post-secondary education are legion:

  • The annual earnings gap between high school graduates and college graduates is significant. 
  • Lifetime earnings for college graduates average $1 million more than non-graduates.
  • College graduates are two-thirds less likely to be unemployed, and three-quarters less likely to be in poverty than high school graduates.
  • College graduates are healthier.
  • The cost of not going to college is the highest it's ever been — millennials with just a high school diploma are faring worse today than their counterparts in earlier generations by almost every economic measure examined.

To learn more, visit 55 by '25, a cross-agency campaign to boost college attendance in Hawaii.

Key in our college and careers readiness effort is the collaborative work of our partners in industry, post-secondary education and workforce development, a coalition to secure Hawaii's economic future. 

Readiness data

Click image to view a printable graphic based on the April 2019 College & Career Readiness Report and other data points. More information available in the How are we doing? section below.

graphic image of CTE program completers, HIDOE honors diplomas, on time graduation rate, seals of biliteracy, ap exams, more

The Strategic Plan, 2017-2020

We encourage everyone to read the full plan to deliver success for students, staff and the public school system. The objective and targets from the plan relative to college readiness belong under Goal 1: Student Success: All students demonstrate they are on a path toward success in college, career, and citizenship.

  • Objective 1: All students are empowered in their learning to set and achieve their aspirations for the future.
  • Objective 2: All students are safe, healthy, and supported in school, so that they can engage fully in high-quality educational opportunities.
  • Objective 3: All students are offered and engage in a rigorous, well-rounded education so that students are prepared to be successful in their post-high school goals.
  • Objective 4: All students transition successfully throughout their educational experiences.

How are we doing?

An overview of data points and initiatives reflecting the effort to prepare students for careers and college:

College & Career Readiness Indicators (CCRI)
Hawaii P-20 produces this annual report that examines how our high schools are doing across various indicators that express readiness for college and career. Those include graduation rates; assessment proficiency in reading, math and science; Advanced Placement (AP) and ACT performance; college attendance; and college-level strength of courses in English, Mathematics. Our rates for proficiency, AP performance, and college attendance and performance are on upward trajectories. Click here to view reports going back to 2009.
Statewide results from the Class of 2018 (released April 2019) show: 
  • More than one fourth of the graduates in the Class of 2018 statewide earned an Honors Recognition Certificate, completing a rigorous course of study to prepare them for college and career. 
  • More students who took the Advanced Placement (AP) exam in high school; 35 percent for the Class of 2018 compared with 27 percent in the Class of 2013. High school completers who scored at least a 3 on an AP exam increased by five percentage points for the Class of 2018 from the Class of 2013. 
Advanced Placement
The number of public school students who took exams jumped 49 percent over five years, with the number of passing scores rising 61 percent. Learn more about these optional exams and our latest results, and view a complete list​ of AP Courses offered at our high schools.
The AP provides willing and academically prepared students with the opportunity to take rigorous college-level courses while still in high school, and to earn college credit, advanced placement, or both for successful performance on the AP Exams. Since 2012, Hawaii has received grants from the U.S. Department of Education to subsidize test fees for low-income students. 

Statewide Assessments
Data from the 2017-18 Strive HI Performance System show the following trends on statewide assessments:
  • Smarter Balanced Assessment scores in language arts/literacy showed gains in all grade levels tested (grades 3-8 and 11). Statewide, language arts/literacy scores are up 4 points over the year prior (to 55%).
  • More students are gaining essential literacy skills by the 3rd and 8th grades. Third graders reading near, at or on grade level is up 8 points over the year prior (to 73%); for 8th graders, the number is up 6 points (to 73%).
  • Smarter Balanced Assessment scores in Math increased in 4 of 7 grades tested (grades 3, 5, 6 and 11). These increasing scores are promising as more elementary students are entering the middle grades better prepared.
FAFSA Applications
A critical measure that serves as one predictor for college access is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. HIDOE has set a goal to have 70 percent of our seniors complete the FAFSA in SY 2018 and 90 percent in 2020. Follow Hawaii's FAFSA data dashboard to see progress statewide and by schools over time.
Support for School-Level Programs
  • AVID: The Advancement Via Individual Determination program is dedicated to closing the achievement gap by preparing all students for college and other postsecondary opportunities with special training for educators, with a focus on middle and high school. The Department assists schools to validate their effectiveness in implementing and embedding the program as part of their annual reporting. For School Year 2014-15, there are 130 schools providing the AVID Elective Class. AVID Elective targets students in the academic middle – B, C, and even D students – who have the desire to go to college and the willingness to work hard, but who often don't get the same attention as their peers in the top and bottom performance groups.
  • Early College: A coordinated initiative to allow more high school students to earn college credits before they graduate from high school. Schools can also design their own program: See Waipahu High's program funded by the McInerny Foundation.


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