Hawaii House Passes Hawaiian Immersion Testing Legislation

House Bill 2875, requiring assessments administered to students in the Hawaiian language immersion program to be developed originally in the Hawaiian language, passed through its third reading in the House and will crossover to the Senate.

Originally launched in the 1980s, the Hawaiian language immersion program is now offered at twenty-one public schools and educates more than two thousand students in kindergarten through grade twelve.

English is not introduced in the Hawaii language immersion program until the fifth grade. As required by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), third and fourth grade students are subject to assessments in reading, math, and science. Since the 2005-2006 school year, immersion students have been administered assessments that were developed in the Hawaiian language, specifically for the program.

This year, the Department of Education began administering assessments to immersion students that were developed in English and translated into Hawaiian. The problems associated in administering an assessment that has been translated from one language to another are numerous and well-documented.

NCLB mandates performance-based pay for teachers, which will use student performance on assessments as a factor. In addition, the Act calls for schools that fail to make improvements on assessments to be subject to punitive measures, including withholding of essential funding. The change in assessments puts Hawaiian immersion students, teachers, and schools at a severe disadvantage.

The Hawai’i State Constitution recognizes the Hawaiian language as the official language of the state, alongside English. The federal Native American Languages Act of 1990 also recognizes the nation’s responsibility to ensure the survival of Native American languages.

House Bill 2875 requires reading, math, science, and other assessments administered to students in grades three through six of the Hawaiian language immersion program to be developed originally in the Hawaiian language.

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