Friday, September 4, 2015         

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Proposal cuts high school social studies

By Mary Vorsino


In response to mounting concerns, state education officials pledged Tuesday to seek more input on a proposal to do away with one of four required high school social studies credits.

This week a new group — the Aloha POSSE (Preserve Our Social Studies Education) — announced its formation and vowed to fight the planned changes to high school graduation requirements.

"When we say something is mandatory, it means that we value it as a society," said Amber Makaiau, a social studies teacher and POSSE member. Doing away with the required credit says "these aren't important things that we value anymore," he said.

Several Board of Education members are urging caution on changes to social studies credits, and said they might need more time to consider the issue.

The full board is to consider the proposed diploma requirements Aug. 18, shortly after the start of the new school year.

The proposed policy would decrease the number of required social studies credits to three from four. Students would have to take world history, U.S. history and modern history of Hawaii to graduate. Students are now required to take modern history of Hawaii and participate in a democracy class, plus two social studies electives.

In addition, all public high school students would have to pass geometry or an equivalent course, plus at least two lab sciences.

The changes would go into effect with the class of 2016 or 2018, depending on the final decision from the board.

Department of Education officials will discuss the plan with principals next week.

Ronn Nozoe, deputy superintendent, said the department is also reaching out to students, teachers and community members.

Speaking at a board Student Achievement Committee meeting Tuesday, Nozoe said the proposed changes are budget-neutral and are not designed to save money, but to better prepare students to excel in college or the work force.

Doing away with the fourth required social studies credit would give students more flexibility to pursue their academic interests, Nozoe said.

At the committee meeting, board members said they support most of the changes under the new diploma policy but have misgivings on the proposed changes to social studies.

"The more I think about this, the more I think we need to think about this," said member Brian DeLima. "I've come to the conclusion that there's much more to look into. I think we've got to slow down on this." Nozoe said he doesn't want the proposed changes to be held off for too long.

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