Academic initiative needs funding


POSTED: Sunday, August 30, 2009

Growing numbers of high school students in Hawaii and across the country are preparing to attend college but the percentage of those who qualify to be admitted is the lowest in years. Schools are successfully encouraging students to reach out for college degrees but need to increase preparation for that goal.

A national record of 1.5 million college-bound seniors took the SAT this year. In Hawaii, 8,313 public and private school students took the test, a 3 percent increase over last year's total. That may reflect schools' efforts to encourage college education, but it also could mean that seniors who are marginal prospects for college—or the families paying the exam bill—are willing to take the chance at the test room rather than in the job market.

“;You don't have just the cream of the crop taking the exam,”; Anna Viggiano of the Hawaii Department of Education told the Star-Bulletin's Craig Gima. “;When you open up access, you can expect to see a drop in scores.”;

Hawaii public and private school classes of 2009 who took the SAT exams dropped two points to 479 in critical reading and 502 in math and one point to 469 in writing. Nationally, seniors dropped from 502 to 501 in reading, remained at 515 in math and fell from 494 to 493 in writing.

The results for the ACT college entrance exam showed Hawaii students on a par with or slightly ahead of the national averages in English, math, reading and science, with a composite score of 21.5 compared with the national average of 21.1.

The number of Hawaii public high school graduates who go on to college is being tracked by Hawaii P-20 Partnership for Education, comprised of Good Beginnings Alliance, DOE and the University of Hawaii. In its first report, the P-20 Partnership found that 5,796, or 51 percent, of the Class of 2008 are in college—3,499 in two-year-colleges and 2,297 in four-year institutions.

Urging students to prepare for college during their senior year is too late, and a new Step Up diploma initiative has been launched to encourage freshmen in the Class of 2013 to take more challenging courses. Students who complete the curriculum, complete a senior research report and maintain a B average will qualify for scholarships and admission to local colleges.

Unfortunately, $500,000 to support advanced placement classes was cut from the current state budget. Federal funds, foundation grants and donations are being sought to support the Step Up initiative.