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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, July 25, 2002

Immersion program perpetuates native language

By James Gonser
Advertiser Urban Honolulu Writer

Ke Kula Kaiapuni 'o Anuenue school has now seen four graduating classes, fulfilling the goal of providing a quality education for Hawaiian language speakers, said principal Charles Naumu.

Kehau Camara, kumu at Ke Kula Kaiapuni 'o Anuenue, teaches a summer class at the Hawaiian immersion school. Anuenue is the only Hawaiian immersion school whose student body comprises children in kindergarten through the 12th grade.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

It is the only public K-12 Hawaiian language immersion school in the state.

"The main difference is the instruction is primarily through the Hawaiian language, but the content is the same as any other school," Naumu said. "The true test is how well our students do through their four years of college and university and ultimately how they end up contributing to society."

The Hawaiian language was banned in public schools in 1896, and 91 years later immersion schools were established by the state Board of Education to increase the number of native speakers and to restore the language.

"The mission and purpose I see here is, of course, teaching the students the best we know how, but also to keep the Hawaiian language and culture from dying out," Naumu said. "The key to understanding the Hawaiian past and keeping it alive is the language. If you don't understand some of the terminology, then you may not understand some of the meaning."

The Hawaiian Language Immersion Program began in 1987 with two kindergarten and first-grade classes of about 20 students each at Keaukaha Elementary on the Big Island and Waiau Elementary on O'ahu. The program has expanded each year to include new grades and new schools.

There now are 18 immersion programs with about 1,600 students. Twenty-four high school students graduated this year from immersion programs on Maui, the Big Island, Kaua'i, and Moloka'i including seven from Anuenue.

Anuenue Elementary School was built in the 1950s for the growing population in the back of Palolo Valley. Thirty years later as the number of children declined, the school was converted to state Department of Education offices and a print shop. The school was renamed and reopened as an immersion school in 1995. All subjects at Anuenue are taught in Hawaiian, except for English classes, which begin in fifth grade. Other classes are given in Hawaiian, as long as the materials are available. Science courses are often forced to use English textbooks because books in Hawaiian are not available, but the discussions are in Hawaiian.

"Most of the students will attend an English-language college or university so need to be up to snuff on core requirements on the college level," he said. "We use both English and Hawaiian at high school level to prepare students for the college of their choice."

Besides the formal classroom work, volunteers help preserve Hawaiian skills through extra-curricular activities including canoe-building and taro cultivation in a field next to Palolo Stream on the seven-acre campus.

Anuenue athletes participate in team sports with Roosevelt High School

• What are you most proud of? Being given accreditation through June 30, 2007, by Western Association of Schools and Colleges and being named a Blue Ribbon School for exceeding academic standards, Naumu said.

• Best-kept secret: Only about 86 percent of the students are Hawaiian or part-Hawaiian.

• Everybody at our school knows: "Uncle" Eddie Ka'anana, who grew up on the Big Island and passes on traditional Hawaiian skills.

• Our biggest challenge: To keep the Hawaiian immersion program alive.

• What we need: A standardized education test in Hawaiian to find students' strong and weak points.

• Special events: Makahiki competition and grandparents day.

To get your school profiled, contact education editor Dan Woods at 525-5441 or dwoods@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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At a glance

• Where: 2528 10th Ave.

• Phone: 733-8465.

• Web address: www.k12.hi.us/~anuenue

• Principal: Charles Naumu, in his fourth year.

• School nickname: Rainbows

• School colors: Blue and green.

• Enrollment: Currently 320 students. With a new building being added, the capacity is about 400.

• SATs: Unlike other public school third-graders, those in immersion programs do not take the Stanford Achievement Test. On the 1997 SAT, sixth-graders at Anuenue School scored on par with their peers in math. However, 68 percent of anuenue sixth-graders scored below average in reading, well below the state and national norm. Anuenue eighth-graders scored only slightly behind their peers on the 1997 SATs.

• Special feature: A stream-fed taro patch on campus.

• Special programs or classes: Aquaculture.

• Computers: The school has three or four computers in each room and is working on getting a central computer lab. Computers use a Hawaiian language program developed at the University of Hawai'i.