Spotlight: Waianae High — 'We're going to do better, and you're going to work at it'


Taking a closer look at some of the standout schools in the 2015 College & Career Readiness Indicators (CCRI) report, which looks at the performance of the Class of 2014 across a variety of key measurements, including proficiency, graduation, college-going and dual enrollment rates. Here we profile Waianae High School.

​​​​Video: Searider Productions, Waianae HS College & Career Fair

Waianae High has experienced the occasional Cinderella story when it comes to educational success. Take the media splash made by Kahunui Foster last year when she became the first student from the school to attend Harvard University since 1980.

But if trends continue, more students are going to have to get fitted for glass slippers.

Looking at two-year trend data, the latest CCRI report shows upward trajectories for Waianae High across nearly all indicators, and two big ones: Students enrolled in Early College (earning credits while in high school) jumped 14 points, and college enrollment jumped 10 points.

“We were really happy to see the jump in the number of kids going to college," said Waianae High Principal Disa Hauge. "That is exactly what our community needs.”

It's significant for a community that's strong on pride but has struggled to deliver kids to college. A college-going culture is largely self-perpetuated among those who've been and graduated. But U.S. Census Data (2009-2013) show only 8 percent of Waianae residents have a bachelor's degree — the statewide rate is 30 percent.

"We work to get kids to realize that going to college is not an option, it’s a requirement," Hauge said. "And it's what will give them a lot of choices in their lives."

A number of factors are at work in this turnaround:

  • Increased resources as part of the state's Zones of School Innovation, and the investment of educational partners including Kamehameha Schools and the University of Hawaii System;
  • Block schedules that give students the flexibility to enroll in Running Start and the school's Early College dual-enrollment program that started this year;
  • An emphasis on supporting beginning students through its Ninth Grade Success Academy, a smaller learning community that delivers concentrated student supports for this crucial year;
  • Outreach with its feeder school (Waianae Intermediate) ensuring that AVID training is taking root with incoming classes;
  • Extended learning opportunities via a federal 21st Century Community Learning Center grant;
  • The continued strength, popularity and networking of the storied Searider Productions program, which year after year has nearly all of its enrollees going to college.

And — not least! — the hard work of staff who make every effort to ensure each student succeeds. Which is the first factor cited by Principal Hauge.

"There are awesome teachers, counselors and other staff at this school who really believe in our kids and push them," Hauge said. "I attribute our success to their steadfastness — not accepting what our initial scores were, because they were low, and just saying, 'We’re going to do better, and you’re going to work at it.'"

Principal Hauge also cites Early College as having a big impact. The effort recently received a $1.2 million investment from partners to fund tuition and expenses and provide technical assistance to selected high schools, working in partnership with University of Hawaii campuses, so they may offer high school-based early college courses. Waianae High is one of the beneficiaries, which include schools on four islands.

"How to maneuver the college system isn't something that's well known in this community. When kids have an opportunity to take an Early College class, and they're suddenly managing things like class registration, it brings home the skills they need," Hauge said. "With that success, they start to understand they can do it. They think, 'I’ve been through a piece of it, so I know what’s coming.' They’re prepared."

About the CCRI reports

CCRI reports are an annual collaboration between the Department and the University of Hawaii, coordinated by Hawai'i P-20 Partnerships for Education, to present information on how well Hawaii public school graduates are prepared for college. Hawaii's CCRI reports are continuously recognized by national organizations, including the Education Sector, the Data Quality Campaign, Achieve, and the National Governors Association, as a leading example of collaboration between K-12 and higher education and for providing useful information on college readiness. Full reports can be found at​


An Expectation of College

Learn about our initiatives and track our progress as we prepare students for success beyond high school. ​

Contact Information

Communications and Community Affairs Office

Phone: 808-586-3232


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