As reported by Nanea Kalani in the
Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Nov. 24, 2013.
Kaimuki High has had its share of challenges. Falling enrollment, a large immigrant population, nearly two-thirds of students from low-income families, low test scores.
But the school is starting to see improvements under Principal Wade Araki, who joined in 2011 after making impressive improvements at Benjamin Parker Elementary — the school went from having 11 percent of students proficient in math to 84 percent, and from 27 percent testing proficient in reading to 88 percent in the nine years Araki was there.
Among the improvements:
- For the first time in five years, Kaimuki hasn't seen its enrollment dip.
- Araki is leading an effort to reconfigure the high school into Small Learning Communities, starting this year with organizing the school's 170 ninth-graders into a freshman academy, with its own assistant principal, counselor and teachers. Kaimuki's freshman failure rate was around 34 percent the year before Araki got to Kaimuki. It dropped to 17 percent in 2011-12, and to 11 percent last year. "So far this year, no freshman is in jeopardy of failing," he said. (The school expects to establish academies at all grade levels by 2016-17.)
- Monthly benchmark assessments for all freshmen and sophomores are held, allowing teachers to tailor lessons and supports as needed. Students also are offered more tutoring services during school breaks and credit-recovery courses after school.
These efforts appear to be bearing fruit:
- Kaimuki's cumulative grade-point average has improved to 2.07 as of the end of last school year. It was at 1.27 when Araki got there.
- The number of students having to repeat a grade has gone from more than 360 students two years ago to fewer than 75 students now.
- The school's average daily attendance has improved to 93 percent from 88 percent two years ago.
The school also launched the "Kaimuki to College" initiative this year, allowing students to take college-level courses — for free — on campus after school and earn credit toward a college degree while fulfilling high school graduation requirements. Kaimuki is paying KCC per credit for an instructor and purchases the required textbooks. One course is being offered this year, a second will be added next year.
Vice Principal Gary Harada said the school hopes the community takes note of the changes being made: "With the academies we're building and with these college courses we're offering, we're hoping to bring these kids back."