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Hawaii News

5 public high schools to share $10M grant


Five Hawaii high schools will share a five-year, $10 million federal grant to bolster their "smaller learning communities" — programs aimed at decreasing dropout rates, improving achievement and better preparing students for colleges or careers.

The grant, announced yesterday, will be divided among McKinley, Pearl City, Castle, Maui and Kapaa high schools and can be used for everything from new personnel to professional development to redesigning curricula.

"The grant itself provides opportunities for the schools to implement different strategies to support smaller learning communities, which actually personalize education for students," said Roosevelt High School Principal Ann Mahi, one of the grant writers.

Roosevelt and five other high schools — Kaimuki, Waipahu, Campbell, Kauai and Waiakea — shared a similar, $8 million grant in 2008.

Mahi, project director for the 2008 grant, said the additional funding awarded yesterday is "really going to support the schools and students and teachers."

The five schools, all of which have more than 1,000 students, will share $3.4 million in the first two years of the grant, then receive $6.6 million in the final three years.

Most public high schools statewide now have smaller learning communities, which put students into various "academies" depending on their planned career choices, keep them with the same teachers for core subjects and offer more personalized support to prevent students from falling through the cracks.

The new funding comes as the Department of Education is going through a host of reforms as part of its $75 million federal Race to the Top grant, aimed at turning around low-performing schools, improving student achievement and boosting teacher effectiveness.

Also this month, Hawaii got an $11 million federal grant to help improve its persistently lowest-achieving schools.

The smaller learning communities grant announced yesterday was part of about $100 million awarded nationwide to support high school reform and improve education for students.


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