HONOLULU (AP) - The board of Hawaii's public school system is committing money and resources to help strengthen a 30-year-old Hawaiian language immersion program.
The Board of Education has made policy changes to create and implement curriculum, standards and assessment tools for the program, which uses the Hawaiian language to educate 2,500 students in kindergarten through 12th grade at 22 public schools statewide.
Supporters are hopeful the changes will lead to developing assessments in Hawaiian.
Hawaiian immersion students are given tests that are translated from English. But some parents and immersion educators say they would prefer assessments that are created in Hawaiian. Many parents even choose to opt their children out of taking the translated tests, which can hurt a school's overall score.
"One of the big misconceptions is that the immersion program doesn't want to be assessed in English or that we don't want to teach English," said Baba Yim, a vice principal at Ke Kula Kaiapuni o Anuenue, the only K-12 Hawaiian immersion school on Oahu. "English is still an academic goal of the program, but it's not the language of instruction."
Supporters say the previous BOE policy was too vague and didn't provide enough support. Board Chairman Don Horner said the revised policy aims for more specific requirements and goals instead of "aspirational" ones.
"So this would give it teeth by being more clear, more specific about what the expectations are for accountability, evaluations, teacher preparation," said Kalehua Krug, a faculty member of the University of Hawaii at Manoa's College of Education.