Hawaii Awarded $1.5 Million from U.S. Department of Education to Improve Schools in Need

The U.S. Department of Education (DoED) announced today that the Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) will receive $1.5 million in School Improvement Grants (SIG). Priority schools in a number of states are recipients of the grant as part of the Elementary & Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The program will be phased out next school year with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

doe-logo“Providing the additional supports to schools that need it most is key to their success,” said Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi. “We’ve seen the impact extended learning opportunities and professional development for teachers have made. In order to make improvements, we need to provide schools resources. This grant allows us the opportunity to move forward.”

In school year (SY) 2013-14, Waianae Elementary used SIG funds towards extending the school year to enable teachers to participate in professional development and students to learn for an additional 300 minutes each week. Most recently, Waianae Elementary was one of the participating Priority schools actively involved in the national Turnaround Arts Program. The initiative provided monies for in-school Professional Development (PD) embedding the arts into curriculum, summer leadership programs and supplies. At the end of SY 2016, some of the students participating in the program were invited to perform at the White House Turnaround Arts Talent Show.

Dole Middle School received funds in SY 2014-15, which was used to focus on four main areas: 1) development of a multi-tiered System of Instruction and Intervention; 2) increasing student engagement through the integration of technology; 3) increasing PD opportunities for faculty and staff; and 4) building a positive school climate that is safe and conducive to student learning.

Dole used part of the monies to host their first annual Middle School Conference where staff members including teachers, educational assistants and custodians, complex, and Title I State personnel, were invited to participate and share best practices. Similar to Waianae Elementary, Dole students benefitted from extended learning opportunities, while teacher rewards ranged from recognition to attendance to national conferences. Dole combined other resources (Uplinks, Title I, Hawaii Keiki Nurse and other community partnerships) allowing for implementation of the middle school philosophy and addressing student needs.

This year, Kekaha Elementary is an applicant for the part of the $1.5 million awarded to HIDOE. The Department and school are currently in the process of negotiating a Memorandum of Understanding with the Hawaii State Teachers Association on how to best utilize the funds.

“We have seen a major shift in the campus culture these past three years including more parent involvement and better student engagement because of the programs and services we have been able to provide through the grant,” shared Waianae Elementary Principal Wendy Takahashi. “The partnerships we have gained through this opportunity from the Hawaii Arts Alliance to celebrities like Jack Johnson, Paula Fuga and Alfre Woodard has helped to energize our students, teachers and school community.”

The SIG program has invested more than $7 billion to transform some of the country’s lowest performing schools. Nationwide, the efforts have been credited with the decline in dropout rates and an increase in graduation rates.

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