Educational Attainment

Desired Outcome – North Hawaii youth have access to high quality education, which uses evidence-based teaching strategies in nurturing environments, supports students to be: 1) proficient readers by 3rd grade, 2) graduate from high school on time, 3) attend a 13th year of school, and 4) be connected to their families, schools and communities.

Primary Indicators

  • % 3rd graders who meet proficient reading level (Chart).
  • % 3rd graders who meet proficient math level (Chart).
  • % of freshmen who graduate on time (Chart).
  • % High school seniors with plans for a 13th year of school (Chart). (Recent data not available)
  • % Population >25 years old without a high school degree (chart).
  • % Population > 25 years old with some college , no degree (chart).

Related Indicators

Story Behind the Baseline

Though the 13th year graph clearly shows the positive influence on health of a 13th year of school, too many graduating seniors in North Hawaii are not going on to a thirteenth year of school.  Too many entering 9th graders are not graduating on time, and too many 3rd graders are not proficient in reading and/or math and don’t catch up by 4th or 5th grade.

  • Twentieth century Hawaii County economy did not require or place a high value on education.
  • Many North Hawaii parents work more than one job and travel long distances making it difficult to supervise and help their children with school work after school.
  • North Hawaii public schools’ scores in reading and math are significantly lower than the State scores and state scores are significantly lower than national scores.
  • Currently there is no clear system for early identification of students who are struggling or at risk for struggling with reading or math.
  • Public school resources are declining for physical education, arts and music, which are all important for student engagement in learning.
  • Percent of public school resources used for “special education” is increasing.
  • Federal legislation, “No Child Left Behind” has led to recent increased public school focus on testing.
  • Teachers’ salaries are relatively low and the cost of living is relatively high.
  • Continuing education for teachers is currently not required or subsidized by public schools.
  • High rates of  student alcohol and illegal drug use.
  • Adult self reports show high rates of adult illegal drug use.
  • No centralized public high school in North Hawaii. Many students travel out of North Hawaii to attend a North Kona high school.
  • Lack of school career counseling and training in Hawaii County.
  • Public perception that public education is not at the same standard of excellence as local private schools.
  • Annual cost of K-12 private schools is > ¼ the average total annual household income.
  • Public school oversight and budget at State level, rather than the local level.
  • No local capacity to generate tax dollars for education.
  • Recent increase in satisfaction with “learning climate” in some public school. Recent increase in math scores in some North Hawaii schools.
  • Several new principals at local public schools.

Partners with a Role to Play


Hawaii Charter Schools, Public Schools, Private Schools, The Kohala CenterYMCA, Five Mountains Hawaii, Family Support Services of West Hawaii, Tutu’s House, Earl’s Garage, Parent Associations, Hawaii Learning Resource , Good Beginnings Alliance, Businesses, Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce, Hawaii Rotary Club, and North Hawaii Educational Research Center.


Parks and RecreationBig Island Interscholastic Athletic Association, and Hawaii International Dyslexia Association-Hawaii Island Chapter.


Department of EducationHawaii Association of Independent Schools Department of Health, Hawaii International Dyslexia Association, Learning Disabilities Association of Hawaii, Hawaii State Teachers Association, UH-Hilo, Hawaii Community College –West Hawaii, University of Hawaii-Center on the Family, and Assets School.


All Kinds of Minds Foundation, Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, Search Institute, National Service Learning, Just Think Foundation, and Teach For America.

What Works – Best Practices:

  • High academic expectations of youth.
  • Early identification and effective management of students at risk for struggling in reading.
  • Evidence-based reading instruction strategies. Visit
  • Caring school climates which actively support students’ healthy relationships with their family. (See Robert Wood Johnson study). High academic expectations of youth.
  • Service to others (service learning) as a strategy to support students’ connection to community.
  • School-based programs to provide on-going help with homework, and adult and peer mentoring.
  • Teacher professional development.
  • Build school learning communities of practice.

What is Being Done:

  • Mala’ai Garden – The Culinary Garden of Waimea Middle School.
  • The Kohala Center facilitating island wide network of school gardens.
  • Five Mountains Hawaii is working with youth and several schools to help students develop a Life Plan.
  • Tutu’s House – On-going youth activities, mentoring, and Earl’s Garage.
  • The Kohala Center – Offering project-based learning and connecting science teachers with scientists.  Offering after school math enrichment programs for elementary and intermediate school students in Waimea.  Inquiry-based ocean science education programs in six different Big Island public schools.  Ocean science, forest ecology, and astronomy programs in Kohala Elementary School.  Scholarships for Island high school students to attend summer programs at Brown University and Cornell University.
  • Hawaii Learning Resource is providing resources for student engagement ans skill building through its academic enrichment camps and teacher training, especially for capable, diverse learners.
  • South Kona principals collaboration to develop learning communities of practice.
  • North Hawaii Education and Research Center offers Hawaii Community College courses for adults and high school students.
  • Hawaii Island Rural Health Association – Emergency Response Training.
  • Culinary Arts Program through Hawaii Community College.
  • Construction Academy at Kealakehe High School.

Suggested Strategies

Increase Awareness:

  • Of the importance of reading in 3rd grade, and evidence-based reading instruction and resources.
  • Of the value of the 13th year.
  • Need for growth of career and technical schools on the Big Island, especially Health Information Technology.
  • Effective strategies to help struggling students and all students.

Obtain Additional Data:

  • Number of students screened for learning differences by age 8.
  • % of 3rd graders who are not proficient in reading and who catch up by 4th or 5th grade.
  • Increase response rates for high school seniors exit plan survey.
  • Increase annual response rate for student alcohol and drug survey in order to track progress.
  • Request Youth Risk Behavior Survey data by county.
  • Consider annual teacher survey of perceived needs for professional development.

Inventory and Build on Existing Resources:

  • Partner to compile reading resources inventory of teachers trained in evidence-based multi-sensory language instruction and remediation and who are willing to do instruction, training and tutoring.
  • Identify resources for screening students at risk for struggling and for learning differences.
  • Inventory all 13th year career training opportunities in Hawaii County.
  • Identify resources for obtaining financial aid for school, especially 13th year.

Increase Organizational Links:

Identify and Address Barriers:

  • Lack of central public high school with community facilities .
  • Funding and opportunities for teacher continuing education.
  • Teacher salaries.

Promote Effective Programs:

  • Develop additional 13th year career and technical opportunities on the Big Island in partnership with Hawaii Community College Workforce Investment and the Chambers.
  • Collaborate to develop community youth centers with access to after school youth development, sports, arts and with academic skills support and link with schools.
  • Increase screening for risk of reading difficulty and learning differences.
  • Increase access to affordable quality early childhood education.
  • Improve assessment of and support of students who are capable, or gifted and diverse learners, but are under achieving.
  • Collaborate to support increased teacher professional development, especially in differentiated instruction.
  • Collaborate to increase student mentoring opportunities, life skills and entrepreneurial curriculum.
  • Collaborate to sponsor 13th year and college financing education nights at local high schools.
  • Provide free or low cost SAT preparatory courses at public high schools.

Promote Effective Practices:

  • Expand South Kona Principals Leadership Group, which supports communities of practice in improving classroom instruction with a focus on “rigor, relevance and relationships.”

Promote Effective Policies:

  • Promote daily physical activity in school.
  • Promote effective school policies regarding student use of alcohol or drugs.
  • Promote increased access to fresh fruits and vegetables in schools.

Improve Health Systems:

  • Link high schools with opportunities to learn about health careers and volunteer in health field.

Acknowledge Champions and Progress:

  • Identify lead organization to select and recognize champions.

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