It’s been heartwarming to see the outpouring of aloha for Hawaii’s graduating Class of 2020. Local TV stations have included daily salutes to high school seniors and televised modified graduations; online platforms have livestreamed virtual commencements. School faculty members who have gone the extra mile to honor their graduates deserve kudos for making the milestone memorable.
Many life lessons are being taught over these “stay at home” months: the importance of adaptation and resiliency; as well as of kindness, such as many here are showing to others, for example, via food giveaways for families and kupuna. Thanks to shared community sacrifice, Hawaii has sustained very low numbers of coronavirus cases — and that effort must continue.
Certainly, though, much has been sacrificed and lost. Hawaii’s record 22.3% unemployment rate last month is dire evidence of this, as are the hundreds of lost learning hours when schools and colleges abruptly shut after spring break in mid-March. More than 45 days of in-person instruction vanished during the final quarter of the school year, which officially ended this week.
To its credit, Hawaii’s Department of Education did quickly launch a grab-and-go meal program at some school hubs, fully recognizing that for many keiki, the schools’ food provided their only square meal of the day.
Academics, though, has suffered — a spotty challenge given the range of students’ socio-economics determining access to computers and internet service, not to mention individual teachers’ diligence in keeping students engaged in distance/online learning. Unfortunately, enrichment lessons that were clearly labeled “optional” left too much leeway for both teachers and students. The DOE and Superintendent Christina Kishimoto are rightly being pressed to give specific accounting of this spring’s online efforts forced by the pandemic.
Such questions and quantifications of meaningful instruction do matter, especially if significant amounts of distance learning become necessary in the new school year.
Already, due to pandemic disruptions of SAT exam schedules, a growing number of U.S. colleges, including the University of Hawaii, are making SAT and ACT scores optional for students applying as freshmen for fall 2021.
While that sounds merciful to most students, it’s bound to put more weight on other class-learning measures such as grade-point averages and AP exams. Simply, Hawaii’s school kids cannot be short-changed on real instruction.