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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Mākaha plan a winner

For the long-suffering schools along the Wai'anae Coast, things are really looking up and it's about time.

Ambitious plans to revitalize public education in the Wai'anae-Nānākuli schools complex take a refreshingly square aim at an area where, for too long, students have posted some of the lowest test scores in the state, and retaining highly trained, experienced teachers has lagged.

The drivers behind these plans the state Department of Education and Kamehameha Schools are collaborating to make this happen. It's a promising partnership and a necessary one.

The DOE's Zones for School Innovation program, partially funded by Kamehameha, will bring a 21st century, technology-based education techniques to Leeward classrooms. As Wai'anae High's Searider Productions media program attests, innovation can flourish here.

And Zones for School Innovation will be complemented by Kamehameha's 15-year plan to build a 300-acre, $100 million "learning community" in Mākaha, with well-appointed facilities housing enrichment programs for public school teachers and students of all ages. This will also bring the Kamehameha brand to more Native Hawaiian students, who make up two-thirds of the coast's student population, but who won't get the chance to enroll at a Kamehameha Schools campus. It's a long overdue step toward advancing the goals of Bernice Pauahi Bishop's legacy.

These efforts to turn around Hawai'i's weakest schools will take time, money, training and accountability. Teachers will have to adapt to what could be a radically different classroom, with evaluations and incentives based on student performance.

It will be hard. But thanks to this unique collaboration, better schools on the Leeward Coast are within reach.