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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, September 26, 2004

Kamehameha Schools' general plan builds on past successes

By Hamilton I. McCubbin, Ph.D.

The recent announcement by the Kamehameha Schools to focus on reaching younger Native Hawaiian children from birth through Grade 3 and continuing its campus-based career academies spotlight the best pathway to ameliorating past wrongs to the Hawaiian people.

This general plan deserves a "high five" because it:

• Reaffirms the commitment of the interim trustees and the 2000 Strategic Plan to offer a broader range of educational opportunities (career academies/ vocational education) in addition to college preparation.

• Reflects the vision of Myron "Pinky" Thompson to target children and families from birth to age 8, and sets the stage for the Estate to act in a prudent manner by capitalizing on its earlier multimillion-dollar investments in research, design, implementation and testing of highly successful programs operating in both public schools and on its Kapalama campus.

• Provides leadership to the nation in the use of proven programs, which was based on how indigenous children of Hawaiian ancestry learn best.

• Opens the door to the three premier campuses on Maui, Hawai'i and O'ahu and invites the most disadvantaged of Hawaiian children with a broader range of abilities to enter and experience the best educational opportunities and to dedicated teachers ready to do all that is necessary to help them achieve their goals and aspirations.

• Demands due diligence in making strategic investments in specific and measurable programs that have demonstrable value in ameliorating past wrongs and directed at the educational needs of these indigent children.

The 2000 Strategic Plan, given depth through community involvement, accentuates the Kamehameha commitment to expand the range of learning careers and opportunities, inclusive of the school's history of vocational education, to better prepare individuals for career/work choices that may or may not involve college.

The Thompson Vision: to educate the young with priority given to the less fortunate. In 1983, with the completion of the Native Hawaiian Education Assessment Project, Thompson, leader of the team, sent a clear message to the congressional delegation and the Hawaiian people that to ameliorate past wrongs, which persisted in undermining the well-being of children of Hawaiian ancestry, "we" (the federal government and Kamehameha) must jointly invest in the early years of the child's life (birth to age 8) and target the children of the less fortunate.

Indigenous ways of learning — the early education program that made a difference. Out of a substantial financial investment in research on education came the Kamehameha Early Education Program. This nationally acclaimed and landmark initiative for promoting literacy and psychosocial development of young children (birth to 8) was decades ahead of its time. It is only now that the world is discovering the value of conducting research and designing and tailoring education programs based on how indigenous children learn best.

A total commitment to the underprivileged and grossly underserved Hawaiian children is the core strategy for improving the well-being of Native Hawaiians. Since 1983 and the Native Hawaiian Education Assessment Project report, the Kamehameha Schools policy of giving priority to admitting the "best and the brightest" children, while producing leaders, has not changed the "at risk" profile of the Native Hawaiians.

Indigent children, one of the named beneficiaries of Bernice Pauahi Bishop's legacy, must be given priority and access to the best education available.

The plan has the potential of creating more opportunities for the disadvantaged and less privileged to receive an education on the premier campuses on Maui, Hawai'i and O'ahu. With longitudinal research confirming the long-term value of the birth-to-8 program on the Kapalama campus, heightened by the termination of its cruel and shortsighted policy of forcing children out at the sixth grade, it is reasonable for the parents and children of Hawaiian ancestry to have renewed hope.

They can expect that The Kamehameha Schools will take advantage of the knowledge gained over 30 years of research and experimentation and once again open its doors to children with a broader range of abilities and who are filled with potential and hope that they too will be able to join the ranks of Princess Pauahi's industrious men and women.

It is reassuring to know that the estate's investments in education will be evaluated and monitored to ensure that they are directed to children and will make a measurable difference in the lives of all Hawaiian children, not just the best and brightest.

It is only by this level of commitment, including the use of the quality learning community on the campuses, that we will be able to confirm to the Hawaiian people that the past injustices will be ameliorated and the Hawaiian people will move forward into the future with greater skills, strengthened abilities, demonstrable resilience, and improved well-being.

Hamilton I. McCubbin is the former CEO of Kamehameha schools.