Monday, November 30, 2015         

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Isle schools improve college readiness

By Mary Vorsino


Hawaii's class of 2010 saw slight gains in key "college and career" readiness indicators, compared with the previous year's seniors, but the state still has a long way to go in meeting ambitious goals for high school grads, a new report shows.

The college-going rate for public high school graduates remained at 50 percent in 2010 for the second consecutive year, far lower than the 62 percent the state has pledged to hit by 2018, according to the statistics released Tuesday by the P-20 Partnerships for Education, a nonprofit group that works to strengthen the "education pipeline" from early childhood to college.

There were improvements in other areas, however. The number of seniors who took Advanced Placement exams grew last year to 3,445, or about one-third of the graduating class. That's up from about 28 percent of the Class of 2009 who took AP exams.

And the percentage of students who enrolled at University of Hawaii campuses and required remedial courses dropped slightly. Some 36 percent of new UH students from public schools enrolled in remedial math, down from 38 percent in 2009. About 33 percent enrolled in remedial English, down from 35 percent the previous year.

Karen Lee, P-20 executive director, said the new report's findings are heartening because they show schools are making progress in better preparing students.

The pace of improvement will need to be greatly increased, though, if the state is to meet the big pledges it has made as part of Race to the Top reforms.

"We're very pleased with the direction that we're going in," Lee said. "But we absolutely need to be making more strides."

Tammi Chun, the governor's adviser for education, said it will take time for school reforms to translate into improvements in college and career readiness indicators.

The report, she added, "shows that we still have a lot of work to do."

The state's education reforms are being driven by a $75 million Race to the Top grant, which the U.S. Department of Education awarded Hawaii in August.

In its application, Hawaii pledged that by 2018, all students will meet or exceed math and reading standards; every high school graduate will be ready for college or a competitive career; and Hawaii's college-going rate will increase to the national median (62 percent).

P-20, led by the Good Beginnings Alliance, the state Department of Education and the University of Hawaii, puts together the "indicators" report to gauge how academically ready Hawaii's grads are for life after high school. The figures were first compiled for the class of 2008, and also include school-by-school statistics.

The report, for example, shows that Kalani High once again topped the state for the percentage of students who went on to higher education, with 77 percent of 2010 graduates enrolling in a two- or four-year college. Nanakuli High had the lowest rate among noncharter schools, with 27 percent.

The new report also shows less than one-fifth of last year's graduates were awarded the state's recognition diploma, which requires a minimum 3.0 grade point average, more rigorous math and science courses, and the completion of a senior project.

In 2009, 31 percent of public high school graduates attained the diploma, which at the time did not require a senior project or have the same math requirements.

It's believed "the senior project requirement was the primary reason that the number of recognition diplomas decreased," Gerry Madrazo, administrator of the DOE School Renewal and Redesign section, said in an email. "Many high schools expressed the concern that they were not prepared to support all students in the completion of the senior project."

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