Star-Advertiser Editorial: Island Voices, May 4, 2016
“Hawaii is a leader in showing ‘What’s Right in Education!’”
By Robyn Conrad Hansen
Like many who keep a pulse on all things education, I’m aware of the educational growth that has taken place in Hawaii and recently saw first-hand what’s taking place at the school level.
As president of the National Association of Elementary School Principals, I travel throughout the United States and abroad. The purpose of my recent visit to Hawaii was to participate in the National Distinguished Principals celebration held on April 24 where we honored some of the best administrators in the state; I also had incorporated time to visit schools.
Educators here are making well-informed decisions benefitting the children and families they serve.
I spent time at three Oahu schools where support for the whole child and community engagement was evident. There is shared leadership at these schools with teachers collaborating in professional learning communities creating a student-centered, data-driven environment.
>> At Nanakuli Elementary School, I was impressed with the welcoming climate and culture of the school. Children and adults greeted us with smiles and often times a huge hug.
This school includes a Hawaiian Immersion program, strong parent involvement, STEM (Science, Tech- nology, Engineering and Math) programs, and quality classroom instruction supported by an administrative team that is trusted and valued by the staff.
Nanakuli Elementary is also one of the public schools that has a preschool to provide the youngest, most at-risk learners in the neighborhood a chance to be well prepared for kindergarten. Early learning is vital to a child’s educational path and I was pleased to see the priority given to this area.
>> I observed how Kalihi Uka Elementary School is tackling the challenges of having a large English Language Learner population.
Walking through classrooms, I saw students engaged in inquiry-based lessons and working in cooperative groups. Teachers facilitating a science activity encouraged rigorous conversations among the students. The classrooms were orderly and respectful with lots of evidence of student learning. Besides STEM lessons, teachers are incorporating the arts and literacy into many of the activities advancing them to the STEAM category.
>> College readiness, professional development and project-based learning are at the core of Stevenson Middle School.
It has many students participating in advanced programs and extra-curricular activities that afford them the opportunity for leadership and career exploration. The daily schedule at this school affords students an advisory period to meet with adult mentors.
Additionally, the campus was friendly, safe and clean — evidence that students and staff care about and support the school and each other.
It was a pleasure to share ideas with the outstanding leaders here and see firsthand excellence at the school level by principals and teachers.
Over the past several years, the schools in Hawaii have made great gains in student performance measures and are being recognized nationally as a state demonstrating, “What’s Right in Education!”
The principals and teacher leaders are working hard daily to provide rich learning opportunities enlisting research based best practices in the field. It is clear that supporting teacher professional growth and learning is a priority. The principals at the schools I visited are frequent visitors to classrooms and work with teachers in a reflective manner when discussing their performance.
The skills I witnessed were also the shared qualities among all of Hawaii’s 2016 National Distinguished Principal nominees.
Hawaii educational leaders understand the benefit of working with partners like the university system to offer quality teacher and principal preparation programs with induction, mentoring and professional development as they enter the education profession.
I congratulate Hawaii for its education accomplishments and for setting an example.
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