Third graders from Fern Elementary recently spent the day on the Mānoa campus, touring facilities with student guides, meeting professors (and quarterback Colt Brennan!), seeing language labs and science demonstrations and generally forming an idea of college life. Fern Principal Martina Kapololu suggested the visit and teacher Jane Toyama coordinated it, partnering with a National Science Foundation-funded UH outreach program to pay for it. Why go through the trouble? Principal Kapololu read that students who aren’t mentally on the college track by third grade are much less likely to pursue higher education, and she is determined that the Kalihi children in her care keep their college options open.
That’s precisely why UH is involved in the Hawaiʻi P-20 Initiative with the state Department of Education and Good Beginnings Alliance. Hawaiʻi P-20 seeks to keep the "educational pipeline" flowing, from early learning through formal schooling to lifelong learning, and close the achievement gap between those who succeed in our educational institutions and those who do not.
Like Fern Elementary, Hawaiʻi P-20 Initiative’s latest effort starts young—focusing on the critical early learning years when mastery of reading skills forms the basis for later academic success. The goal of Capturing the Momentum–The P-3 Initiative is for every third grader in Hawaiʻi to read at grade level by 2015. We are enormously grateful to the W. K. Kellogg Foundation for providing an eight-year, $10 million grant to support development of high quality, culturally sensitive environments in early learning settings and K-3 classrooms. The project will build on successful community-based programs that have improved school readiness among children in high-poverty communities on the Big Island and Oʻahu.
Higher education must own and respond to the challenges of early childhood and K-12 education. From infancy through grade three, children learn to read; from grade four on, people read to learn. Thus, improving higher educational performance starts with having all learners master reading skills. The investment we make now will help close the gaps in educational and economic opportunities and ensure a promising future for all Hawaiʻi.
For more information, visit the website of the Hawaiʻi P-20 Initiative.
President, University of Hawaiʻi