Native-Hawaiian Students Lacking in Skills, Opportunities

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"The descendents of the original inhabitants of Hawaii," says a major report on the educational needs of Native Hawaiians, "find themselves at the bottom of indicators of success in modern America, and they are sometimes referred to as 'strangers in their own land'."

Social and Educational Inequality

The report, begun under the aegis of the U.S. Education Department but completed with private funding, says that as a result of their "disproportionate" measure of social and educational inequality, Native Hawaiian public-school students score lower than the national norm, and lower than any of the major ethnic groups in the state, on standardized achievement tests.

The document points out that Hawaiians were recognized by Congress as "Native Americans" in 1974, so that they could be eligible for the educational programs established for American Indians. But the study says that the Native Hawaiian students--who represent 21 percent of Hawaii's elementary and secondary students--are not being sufficiently served by those federal education programs.

The report calls for new programs, involving federal, state, or private funding, that are tailored to the needs of Native Hawaiian children and other Pacific Islanders.

The one-year study, called "The Native Hawaiian Educational Assessment Project," was conducted by the Kamehameha Schools/Bernice Pauahi Bishop Estate of Honolulu.

Bernice Pauahi Bishop was a Hawaiian princess who died in 1884, leaving her estate for the purpose of establishing a private school for Hawaiian students. The Kamehameha Schools today have 2,700 male and female students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

The estate offered to underwrite the study after the Advisory Council on Hawaiian Education, a federal commission mandated by the Congress in 1980 to conduct the study, lost its funding under the Education Consolidation and Improvement Act of 1981.

The authors of the study, who are associated with the Kamehameha Schools, say the 496-page report is the "most intensive analysis of the educational needs" of Native Hawaiian children ever undertaken.

For the purpose of the study, the term "Native Hawaiians" follows the definition used in the federal legislation that granted Native American status to Hawaiians: "Any individual any of whose ancestors were natives of the area which consists of the Hawaiian Islands prior to 1778."

According to the report, there were 33,243 such children enrolled in schools operated by the Hawaiian State Department of Education in 1980-81. (Hawaii has a single, statewide district.) An estimated 8,558 Hawaiian students attended private schools that year.

A variety of data were used in the report, including Stanford Achievement Test results and testimony and reports from several state agencies and officials.

Among other conclusions of the study:

Hawaiian students in both public and private schools had the lowest scores among the four major ethnic groups in Hawaiian schools (Hawaiian, Caucasian, Japanese, and Filipino).

Hawaiian students are "disproportion-ately represented" in special-education programs for students with learning disabilities and handicaps.

Hawaiian students have "educational needs that are related to their unique cultural situation," and they suffer significant developmental stresses and problems as a result of the erosion of their traditional culture. As a result, the authors conclude, existing education programs for Native Americans do not meet these needs.

A Range of General Actions

The report recommends a range of general actions, including: a continued emphasis on basic skills, particularly in reading and mathematics; the development of special programs addressing the social needs of Hawaiian students and families; scholarship programs; Hawaiian-studies programs; and further research into the "unique cultural needs" of Native Hawaiian students.

The report also calls for the formation of a"Pacific Basin Educational Laboratory," to be developed jointly by the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Estate, the state department of education, and the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory.

Vol. 02, Issue 32

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