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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 9, 2006

At Wahiawa school, no one is left behind

By Rod Ohira
Advertiser Central O'ahu Writer

Wahiawa Middle School eighth-graders Taylor Beltz, left, and Kawika Dehart practice various fiber-arts stitches in their art class. Teachers at the school are more determined than ever to help students excel.

DEBORAH BOOKER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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School: Wahiawa Middle

Where: 275 Rose St.

Phone: 622-6500

Principal: Carol Price, fourth year at school, third as principal

School nickname: Lancers

School colors: Green and white

Testing: Here's how Wahiawa Middle students fared on the most recent standardized tests.

  • Stanford Achievement Test: Listed is the combined percentage of students scoring average and above average, compared with the national combined average of 77 percent. Eighth-grade reading, 69 percent; math, 65 percent.

  • Hawai'i State Assessment: Listed is the combined percentage of students meeting or exceeding state standards, and a comparison with the state average. Eighth-grade reading, 34 percent, compared with state average of 38.2 percent; math, 14 percent, compared with 20.5 percent.

    Enrollment: 980

    Low-income enrollment: 60 percent

    History: Founded in 1961

    Special programs/classes: English for second language learner; special motivation program; and Resiliency, an academic tutoring program for struggling students.

    Computers: Two labs, two mobile labs and at least one computer in every classroom.

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    WAHIAWA Beatrice Okamoto, head of Wahiawa Middle School's math department, and eight of her teachers arrive early, leave late and are usually in their classrooms helping students during lunch hour.

    They do it not because they have to but because they want to.

    Wahiawa Middle is one of 24 public schools in Hawai'i undergoing "restructuring" geared to improve student test scores to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind Act. ETS Pulliam, a private company, was hired by the state to oversee restructuring at Wahiawa Middle for this school year.

    For 65 teachers, 10 of whom have been at Wahiawa Middle for more than 30 years and eight others who have more than 20 years of DOE experience, it meant learning and implementing a new strategy on the run.

    ETS provides a data-management system, quarterly tests based on essentials and a pacing guideline for teachers.

    "We're moving rapidly but covering essential standards," Okamoto said. "Now there's no such thing as falling behind. We have to make sure the curriculum is covered."

    Students having difficulty know their teachers are available to help.

    "We believe in our department and accept kids how they come to us," Okamoto said. "As teachers, ETS has helped us with data to get down to specifics to help kids. There's more consistency (in teaching standards)."

    Wahiawa Middle Principal Carol Price is proud of the way the faculty has accepted the challenge.

    "Our hard-working teachers have had to very rapidly change things from what they normally do," Price said. "I'm most proud of their attitude, which is, 'If we haven't done everything we could, let's try it.' "

    Special events: The May Day program as an annual event was revived last school year. The program features performances by the school's Polynesian music and dance classes and is coordinated by faculty member and kumu hula Paul Stader.

    Best-kept secret: A hatchery for bass, which are released in Lake Wilson, started with federal money and the assistance of the state's Department of Land & Natural Resources and a farming program directed by Cass Ishitani.

    Everybody at the school knows: Vice Principal Tim Bollinger, who has been in charge of discipline at the school for about 12 years.

    Few would guess: Price's husband, Ellis, played basketball at the University of Hawai'i shortly before the arrival of the "Fabulous Five" era, and two of their four children were prominent local prep athletes: daughter Keiko, a former Mililani High swimming star and Olympic hopeful, works as a counselor in the University of California Berkeley athletic department, and son Kenji, a basketball all-star, is an Army Ranger captain in Savannah, Ga.

    Projects: New quarterly assessments in core subjects.

    What the school needs: A paint job, termite treatment and classroom renovations.

    Reach Rod Ohira at rohira@honoluluadvertiser.com.