More freshmen urged to Step Up
By Loren Moreno
Advertiser Education Writer
Some 1,800 high school freshmen have pledged to work toward a more rigorous diploma known as the Board of Education's "Step Up" Recognition Diploma, but officials are hoping to get hundreds more students to step up.
The Hawai'i P-20 Partnerships for Education and the public school system are extending the deadline for freshmen to pledge to strive for the voluntary high school diploma, which requires credits in advanced science, math and writing.
The special diploma can qualify them for admission preference at local universities.
The diploma, approved a year ago by the state Board of Education, was announced at the beginning of the school year and offered for the first time to the current freshman class, the class of 2013.
Several high schools have had success in getting a large portion of their freshman classes to sign on for the rigorous diploma, including Mililani High School with 84 percent and Big Island Hawaiian immersion school Ke Kula O Ehunuikaimalino with 100 percent.
So far, 1,800 high school freshmen statewide have signed pledges. That's about 15 percent of the freshmen statewide, said Tammi Chun, executive director of Hawaii P-20 Partnerships for Education. But Chun said P-20 has a goal of 50 percent.
"We know we can get more students," Chun said. "We want them to earn the diploma not only because they will have the preparation to be career- and college-ready, but also because there are some incentives specifically for students who earn the diploma."
Incentives include admission preferences to local universities, including the University of Hawai'i. Students who earn the recognition diploma with a minimum grade-point average of 3.0 will receive automatic acceptance to a UH campus. Hawai'i Pacific University and Chaminade University have similar guarantees.
Students who choose to enter the workforce after high school could take advantage of partnerships with several local business. Businesses such as City Mill, the Hawai'i Carpenters/Drywall apprenticeship program and Hawaiian Electric Co. have pledged to waive pre-employment exams for students who earn the diploma.
The diploma ensures that students graduate with the course requirements necessary to enter college. It also ensures they have done coursework that makes them valuable to employers.
For instance, students will take four math credits instead of three and need to complete algebra 1, geometry, algebra 2 and an algebra 2 end-of-course exam. Students would still earn four credits in English but need to complete a semester of expository writing. Students still need three credits in science, but two of those should be in chemistry, biology or physics.