Across the state, public high schools are taking a moment to celebrate the pride of their alma mater.
Many of us have fond memories of homecoming week. It builds morale, and that school spirit plays a huge part of the school experience.
Our role at the Hawaii Department of Education is to educate all children. English learners, gifted and talented, special needs — we serve them all.
You could say we are the underdogs, which is why our wins are that much sweeter.
Our students, teachers and administrators fight for each decimal point gained, scholarship dollar and award.
It’s this tenacity and perseverance that sets our students apart and makes them viable competitors with their peers locally and nationally when it comes to college and career opportunities.
But what are the numbers saying about the growth of our public school students?
The recent announcement from the College Board, which administers the Advanced Placement Program, shows that Hawaii’s public school students are exceeding the nation in gains on AP exams. This means that Hawaii’s rate of growth in participants, exams taken and scores of 3 or higher is outpacing that of schools throughout the U.S. combined. This is tremendous news.
A recent Honolulu Star-Advertiser article (“Dual credit programs found to boost college-going rates,” Sept. 19) highlighted the success our students are having with dual credit programs, and pointed out that since 2011, programs like Running Start, Jump Start and Early College — all focused on getting students to take college-level courses — have seen a 75 percent increase in participants.
In 2014, Hawaii became one of a handful of states to require the ACT test for all its public school juniors. Now, more than double the number of students are meeting college-readiness benchmarks in English, reading and science, and nearly double the numbers for math.
While Hawaii is trending behind national percentiles for this test, the sheer growth in proficiency rates and the fact that we have doubled how many students are meeting requirements to enter college are all steps in the right direction.
While these results are extraordinary, numbers don’t tell the whole story.
At a recent GEAR UP Hawaii event, students taking dual credits shared their experiences with legislators and education leaders, and talked about the importance of continuing to fund these types of programs.
A Waianae High senior, who is being raised by a single mom along with her two sisters because her father is in and out of prison, shared what motivates her.
While she admitted that in the beginning she lacked the self-confidence needed to take on classes with higher rigor, the support she received from her teachers and mother encouraged her to take a risk and try.
This year, she is enrolled in a college-level geography course and AP English, and looks forward to attending college after high school.
Another student, a senior at Nanakuli High and Intermediate, talked about moving back and forth between Hawaii and the mainland throughout his academic career, and how the difficulties he faced with each transition only helped to motivate him to take on challenges like college-level courses.
There are thousands of stories from our public school students of overcoming obstacles, from poverty to constant transitions and uncertainty. Yet, they still show up, strive high and, in the case of our AP exam results, outperform their peers on a national level.
The journey is much farther when you’re starting from farther behind. It’s time that we all recognize the achievements in our public schools. Our teachers, students and administrators deserve it.