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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 16, 2002

State's largest intermediate school concentrates on reading

By Scott Ishikawa
Advertiser Central O'ahu Writer

WAIPAHU — For Waipahu Intermediate School students, a new learning philosophy means getting back to basics: Read a book.

English teacher Candace Lau lead her Waipahu Intermediate School class through a discussion of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet." Eighth-grader Sherrie Plan is at right.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

The school is in the first year of a program called "America's Choice" to revamp the school's learning strategy, with students required to read a minimum of 25 books by the end of the school year.

It's not unusual to see students carrying paperbacks around campus with their usual textbooks. Students are also given the first five minutes of most class periods to read.

School principal Ed Oshiro said one reason behind the reading-heavy program is an attempt to improve students' SAT reading scores.

"While our math scores has steadily gone up, our reading scores have fluctuated," said Oshiro, who selects a book of the month that teachers and students read and discuss. "The other reason is students at this age become distracted by video games, TV and movies, and many tend to drop reading from their outside activities."

Waipahu's diverse and growing population also includes a large number of immigrant children; 15 percent of Waipahu Intermediate's student body attend classes for English as a second language.

The school, with 1,250 students, is the state's largest intermediate school — the category that usually encompasses Grades 7 and 8 only, while middle schools handle Grades 6-8.

"We take in students from five area elementary schools, in which the average enrollment of each of those schools is about 1,000," Oshiro said. "Because of the overcrowding, we have four "floating" teachers with no classrooms."

Oshiro said implementing the teaching strategy will take about five years. Next year, the school schedule may change from six periods to seven to include an extra English or math class for those wanting or needing additional instruction. To also help students, the America's Choice program provides standardized grading.

With a student body of 1,250, Waipahu Intermediate is the state's largest intermediate school covering the seventh and eighth grades.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

Other changes have come gradually under Oshiro's tenure. In his first year, students were required to wear uniforms — T-shirts or polo shirts with the school logo. Last year, student ID tags were implemented that also serve as code cards for school lunches.

Teachers have also begun a "Read-Aloud" program in the school library, which has evolved into a mini-talent show of songs, skits and discussions on everyday teen issues. On the other end of the spectrum, students are being instructed on preparing for college through the DOE's "Gear Up" program.

"I think it's finding the right mix of classes and activities for the students," Oshiro said.

"You have to remember they are still kids in many ways, but at the same time, they'll be entering into adulthood soon."

What are you most proud of? The increasing technology on campus. Each classroom has at least one computer wired to the Internet. There is also a closed-circuit TV in each classroom, with students broadcasting "WIS" TV at 8 each morning about the day's schedule and other campus news.

Best-kept secret: Many teachers elsewhere have applied for positions at the school, even though there are few openings.

Our biggest challenge: Trying to deal with student crowding, since five large elementary schools in the area feed into Waipahu Intermediate.

What we need: More classroom space. School officials are seeking six portable classrooms for the short term, and a permanent eight-classroom building for the long run.

And despite its large size, the campus lacks kitchen facilities to go with its cafeteria. Food is prepared at and transported from Honowai Elementary.

Special events: A school Awards Night will be held May 29, when a Stanley Sakuma scholarship will be awarded to an outstanding Waipahu Intermediate student who later graduates from Waipahu High School. The $500 college scholarship award was dedicated to Sakuma, a teacher at Waipahu Intermediate who drowned while saving a student during a field trip to Mokoli'i, the islet off Kualoa Regional Park.

The school choir and band will also hold a May 28 Aloha Spring Concert at the Pearl City Cultural Center.

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

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At a glance

• Name: Waipahu Intermediate School

• Where: 94-455 Farrington Highway

• Phone: 675-0177

• Web address: www.waipahums.k12.hi.us

• Principal: Ed Oshiro, third year at school

• School nickname: Junior Marauders

• School colors: Red and gold

• Enrollment: 1,250 students. School officials believe they are 50 to 100 students over capacity.

• SATs: Here's how Waipahu Intermediate students fared on the 2000 Stanford Achievement Test. Listed is the combined percentage of eighth-grade students scoring average and above average, compared with the national combined average of 77 percent. Reading, 67 percent; math, 72 percent.

• History: Founded in 1966; the existing building housed Waipahu High School before World War II.

• Special programs or classes: The Waipahu school complex was one of the first to be deemed in compliance with the Felix consent decree. By next year, 100 percent of the school's special-education teachers will be certified or in programs to receive certification.

• Computers: Approximately 200, including two computer labs.