As we bid aloha to approximately 10,500 graduating seniors in the Class of 2015, we take pride in knowing more public school students are prepared with essential skills and knowledge to succeed, as noted in the latest
College and Career Indicators Report.
Equally rewarding, is to experience a wave of community, business and legislative support that has helped make students' dreams possible. We know schools cannot do it alone and we look forward to nurturing partnerships that allow us to continue to advance our work creatively and collaboratively.
In particular, we are excited for the Legislature's passage of laws that will strengthen two ongoing, successful initiatives: one addressing children's health needs and school readiness, and another expanding high school students' opportunities to earn college credits.
The "Hawaii Keiki: Healthy and Ready to Learn" program will boost access to school-based health screenings, referrals, prevention and emergency care across six complex areas.
Hawaii Keiki has its roots in the Hawaii Department of Education's (DOE)
Race to the Top grant, which led to a partnership with the University of Hawaii-Manoa School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene to serve rural, hard-to-staff schools enrolling large populations of Native Hawaiians and economically disadvantage students in Puna and Kau on Hawaii Island and Oahu's Waianae Coast.
Hawaii Keiki helped reduce health-related student absences by preventing and managing communicable diseases and screened students for vision and hearing. It also is a vehicle for schools to integrate wellness planning.
Targeted health and other educational supports were made possible by community partners such as the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation, Kamehameha Schools, AT&T, Hawaii 3R's, Hawaiian Electric Industries and the Hawaii Business Roundtable.
The DOE expects similarly positive results when it expands Hawaii Keiki to the Castle-Kahuku complex in 2015-16. The program is currently available in the Kau-Keaau-Pahoa, Nanakuli-Waianae, Farrington-Kaiser-Kalani, and Kailua-Kalaheo complexes, as well as on Kauai.
Making sure children are healthy and ready to learn is a crucial first step for students to excel in their K-12 journey and pursue their life aspirations. Increasingly, students are finding that a post-secondary education — from two-year job certification to advanced degrees — has become vital to enter a Hawaii job market where about 70 percent of positions will require some college by 2020.
That's why Hawaii P-20, a collaboration of DOE, early learning and higher education partners working to improve the education pipeline, has set a statewide goal of 55 percent of working-age adults having a two- or four-year degree by 2025.
Dual credit programs such as
Jump Start and
Early College have motivated hundreds of juniors and seniors to take UH college-level courses during the fall, spring and summer through scholarships. A new law expands these programs to all academically qualified public high school students and supports schools' early college programs as a pathway for students to earn college and high school credits.
In 2014-15, a dozen high schools joined an early college pilot project run by Hawaii P-20 and backed by the Castle Foundation and GEAR UP Hawaii. The number of students enrolled in dual-credit courses statewide increased to 879 (8 percent of the Class of 2014) from 671 in the Class of 2012.
Across our state, school partnerships are flourishing: a local artist whose ocean-themed murals build pride and inspire students; Ka Hei, a public-private program to harness solar energy, reduce expenses and enhance STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) lessons; and Malama Honua, the Polynesian Voyaging Society's Worldwide Voyage that spurred community based and sustainable education.
Partnerships enrich the public school experience and connect our students and educators with our families, businesses and volunteers. More importantly, they bring us together for a shared goal of student and community success.
This commentary was originally published May 24, 2015 in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.