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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, November 7, 2002

Effort lifting campus out of 'failing' designation

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward O'ahu Writer

KA'A'AWA — Ka'a'awa Elementary School sits on oceanfront property with a million-dollar view of waves breaking on the reefs. Sandy shores beckon children into the warm sun, but they're focused on their schoolwork.

Ka'a'awa Elementary School is made up of 12 sky-blue buildings, 11 of them portables, on Windward oceanfront property.

Cory lum • The Honolulu Advertiser

Through cooperative learning, 140 students at the small Windward campus from kindergarten to sixth grade help each other in areas such as reading, which has improved significantly in recent years.

Three years ago, when the school embarked on the "Success For All" reading program, about a third of students were reading at grade level, according to an initial test.

The most recent tests by program administrators show that figure has more than doubled, to 71 percent reading at grade level. Efforts to improve those scores continue, said principal Susan Hummel.

Ka'a'wa, ranked as a failing school, won't remain one for long, Hummel said. The school made progress in all four indicators last year: reading, math, attendance and open-ended reading. Students and faculty are determined to succeed again this year, she said.

"All of us are focused for the new assessment coming up this spring, because we know if we make adequate yearly progress again, we're going to be off that list," Hummel said.

Ka'a'awa's 12 sky-blue buildings, including 11 portables, are nestled between the mountain and the sea. A couple of mother hens roam the grounds landscaped by custodian Uncle Darron Maiava, who holds fund-raisers to buy plants.

At night, the school's new computer lab turns into a Family Learning Center where adults can learn to use the computer. People have inquired about the course from as far away as Kalihi and Waikiki.

"We didn't know our community was the whole island," Hummel said.

• What are you most proud of? The "Success for All" reading program.

• Best-kept secret: Faculty dedication. Under pressure as a corrective action school, teachers voluntarily changed the way they grade students, Hummel said. Each student's four-page report lists skills to learn. Skills such as use of a compass are rated, giving parents a clear idea of a child's ability.

• Everybody at our school knows: "everybody, because we're so small," Hummel said. "But the ... cornerstone of the school is our kindergarten teacher, Iris Sayegusa," who has been there longer than anyone, 12 years.

• Our biggest challenge: Getting more parents involved in academics. They turn out for things such as Make A Difference Day, but not enough of them help with studies.

• What we need: Tutors and volunteer listeners for the reading program.

• Projects: The school is installing central air-conditioning to cut down on noise from heavy traffic and rain at its permanent building, right on the highway.

• Special events: Ka'a'awa will celebrate its centennial next year, and the school is collecting oral histories and photographs to create a timeline for publication.

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

• • •

At a glance

• Where: 51-296 Kamehameha Highway, Ka'a'awa

• Phone: 237-7751

• Principal: Susan Hummel, in her fourth year

• School nickname: Ocean Warriors

• Mascot: Sea turtle

• School colors: Blue and green

• History: Ka'a'awa Elementary School was established in 1904 on land donated by the Swanzy family. The school serves the communities of Kualoa, Ka'a'awa, Kahana, and Punalu'u.

• SATs: Here's how Ka'a'awa Elementary students fared on the most recent Stanford Achievement Test. Listed is the combined percentage of students scoring average and above average, compared with the national combined average of 77 percent. Third grade, reading: 76 percent; math: 67 percent. Fifth grade, reading: 93 percent; math: 74 percent.

• Computers: 30

• Enrollment: 140; can accommodate 190