Maui school turns itself around
By Christie Wilson
Advertiser Neighbor Island Editor
By Christie Wilson
KIHEI, Maui — For years, Kihei Elementary School was considered a failing school under Title I and No Child Left Behind standards. But determination and a dedicated faculty and staff willing to embrace change helped the South Maui school turn itself around.
In the past two years, it has become a school in "good academic standing" that has been showered with accolades for its successful reading programs and held up as a model for schools statewide.
"Other schools on Maui, Kaua'i, O'ahu and the Big Island have sent teachers to our school to see how we do things here. Our teachers have been open to share what has worked and what has not," said Principal Alvin Shima.
What has worked is a series of actions that included implementation of a new Harcourt reading program called Collections, along with a support system for pupils in kindergarten through Grade 3 who need intensive help.
"We restructured our instructional blocks to provide more time for our school priorities. We dedicated more resources to support our reading improvement efforts. We developed and implemented a schoolwide reading assessment plan to monitor student progress. We implemented a small-group instruction model to provide children with differentiated instruction," Shima said.
Kihei Elementary also contracted a reading consultant to help implement the new programs, and developed coaches to assist teachers with reading instruction. Shima said a "sacred" morning instructional block was established, with custodial staff agreeing not to run lawn mowers or other noisy equipment that could disturb classes.
Kihei has participated in the federal Reading Initiatives program for the past five years, working its way up from a "Reading Challenge" school to a "Reading First" school.
"Involvement meant that our teachers in grades K-3 had valuable training in early reading, which was critical in achieving our school goal of every child reading at grade level by Grade 3," Shima said. "Involvement also meant that we ... got exposed to current research on best practices on instruction and exposed to scientific research-based reading curricula and intervention programs."
Shima said parents and the community also deserve credit for Kihei's newfound success. PTA president Cindy Lester was responsible for raising thousands of dollars through a fun run to help needy students with lunch payments and to pay for playground equipment, teacher training, field trips and staff appreciation luncheons. She even helps Shima greet kids in the morning and directs traffic.
More than 40 retired professionals who live part time in Wailea are members of the school's Reading Team of Volunteers, visiting the campus twice a week to work with children on reading. Shima said a similar program for math is planned for the new school year.
Reach Christie Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org.