I received a long email from Dave Cleveland, a colleague of Meda’s during the ten years or so that she taught at Honolulu Community College. It’s worth sharing in full.
The headline article in Monday’s Star-Advertiser reports on “going” and “remediation” rates that demonstrate the lack of preparedness of Hawaii’s public high school graduates. Reading the article, I thought of writing you in hopes of someone in the media paying greater attention to what I believe to be our greatest challenge – educating the public so we can be in a better position to build an improved future for our community.
The findings of the article were, of course, no surprise to anyone on the front lines of higher education. When Meda and I began our careers, we naively believed that the preparation of incoming students would certainly improve as inspired baby boomer era teachers entered the educational system. Our relatively young liberal arts colleagues at HCC were certainly inspired and, by and large, were dedicated to rigorous, exciting education. We, however, failed to understand the realities of public education in Hawaii and the degree to which educators and administrators could turn a blind eye to the facts of under-preparation.
Over two decades ago, I visited Miami Dade Community College System in Florida and tried to get the college and UH System to copy a strategy they were employing to cause schools and families to demand more of themselves to improve educational preparation of high school graduates. Miami Dade’s community colleges published (in newspapers) the required remediation rates of incoming students – school by school. Releasing these data provided schools, communities, and families with hard data much in the way that Demming’s total quality, continuous assessment strategies allowed Japanese auto manufacturers to surpass American and European car companies in terms of quality and reliability.
Alas, my suggestions fell on deaf ears.
Today’s newspaper reports is, finally, a step in the right direction. However, notice that only the “going” rates were published on a school by school basis – not the required remediation rates. Nor were the remediation rates separated by institutional category (UH-M, UH-H, UH-WO, and individual CCs). Overall assessment data can be valuable, but if data are to drive meaningful change, the data must be as focused as possible. The remediation rate data certainly exist – they should be released and published. Then, UH universities/colleges need to dramatically improve communication, coordination, and articulation of educational development and monitor the results on an annual basis.
One program that helps achieve this goal in many states is Running Start (or other named dual enrollment – high school/college – programs that provide college access to qualified high school students). I was intimately involved in the development of Hawaii’s Running Start Program and continued to research program outcomes until I fully retired last summer. Hawaii public school students who have participated in the program do incredibly well (better on average than our “regular” students) and give the program high marks; however, while similar programs across the country are booming, our limps along – neither the DOE or the UH has truly embraced the program.
It took years to get the DOE to permit Running Start students to expand college course selection – they insisted that eligible college courses had to “match” courses offered at high schools. Therefore, “exotic” classes like calculus and Pacific Studies were excluded from eligibility despite the fact that some Running Start students were fully prepared for them and needed them for their intended university majors.
Furthermore, the Hawaii State legislature specifically revised the enabling legislation to include vocational (career/technical) courses. Until very recently, no technical program classes were designated as Running Start eligible, and today most technical program classes remain ineligible. This despite the fact that Honolulu Community College and several sister colleges were DOE technical magnet schools that catered to high school students until their transformation to community colleges in the mid 1960’s.
As a journalist and educator of Hawaiian ancestry, I am confident that you are painfully aware of the continued low education performance of students who attend schools in predominately Hawaiian ethnic communities. A far more global approach to preparing students of ethnic minority backgrounds for the realities of the 21st century can be found in Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Children’s Zone Project.
With the incoming Governor’s educational background, perhaps we will finally have the long promised, but never delivered “Educational Governor” will come to the fore. By researching the options and focusing attention on the problems/potential solutions, journalists like you may be able to prime the educational pump and get us moving toward the future we all envisioned when we began our careers over four decades ago.
“Now let us see what the present primary schools cost us, on the supposition that all the children of 10. 11. & 12. years old are, as they ought to be, at school: and, if they are not, so much the work is the system; for they will be untaught, and their ignorance & vices will, in future life cost us much dearer in their consequences, than it would have done, in their correction, by a good education.”
“If a nation expects to be ignorant & free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was & never will be.”