Behind the resorts and scenic beauty, the achievement gap in Hawai‘i is staggering. Many of the students who are being left behind are Native Hawaiian.
Hawai‘i received $75 million from Race to the Top. Initiatives include providing targeted support to struggling schools, and cultivating and rewarding effective teaching.
Hawai‘i’s rich history has roots in many cultures. Native Hawaiians; Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Portuguese, Micronesian, and Pacific Island immigrants; military families; and mainland white settlers are all represented in the state’s diverse population.
Island living, while physically stunning and culturally rich, comes at a steep price. An estimated 6,188 residents of Hawai’i are homeless and living on beaches or in shelters. Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders comprise a disproportionate 59% of the homeless population, which includes 1,700 children.
Outcomes for kids in Hawai‘i public schools have historically been mediocre at best. The quality of education took an additional blow in 2009 when the state implemented “furlough Fridays,” effectively creating 4-day school weeks and reducing the overall number of instructional days for students. Parents, kids, and teachers united in outrage. A year later, furlough Fridays were eliminated, a State Constitutional amendment was passed establishing an appointed Board of Education, and a new superintendent helped to create a strategic plan that won Hawai‘i a coveted Race to the Top grant.
Now, more than ever, there is energy and urgency around transforming the educational landscape of our state. With tremendous community support, new leadership in the Board Of Education and Department Of Education, and Race to the Top reform efforts, momentum is building in Hawai‘i. Our 2013 Teach For America corps—nearly twice the size of past corps groups—will work with more than 16,000 students in the coming school year. At this critical moment we are excited to be partnering with our communities to give all of Hawai’i’s children the opportunity to receive the education they deserve.
See more from Executive Director Jill Baldemor in her op-ed in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser:
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Prior to joining Teach For America staff, Jill practiced law at Goodsill Anderson Quinn & Stifel, LLP for seven years. A 1995 corps member, she taught second grade in New York City’s Washington Heights neighborhood. Jill holds master's and bachelor's degrees from Northwestern University and a JD from the University of Washington School of Law.