KEAAU, HAWAII — In terms of quantifying school failure, at least by Department of Education standards, Nawahiokalaniopuu Iki is nearly unbeatable.

The school, whose student body is among the poorest in the state, earned just 20 points out of a possible 400 on Strive HI, the state’s new system for measuring student achievement and improvement. Statewide, the school — Nawahi for short — ranked 287th out of 288 public schools.

So are the students dejected?

Hardly. The “failing” score is a political weapon — and a source of Hawaiian pride at Nawahi.

Nawahi is one of 20 schools in the state where a total of about 2,400 students learn in Hawaiian, not English. These Hawaiian immersion programs are publicly funded, and many are housed on regular public school campuses. Six of the immersion programs are charter schools, meaning they operate under their own, independent governing boards. (Nawahi’s K-8 levels are part of the charter system; its high school is not.)

The three-decades-old Nawahi has spearheaded the movement to revitalize the Hawaiian language by establishing immersion schools that are a form of blowback against what activists see as a generations-long strategic effort to extinguish the Native Hawaiian identity…

Students walk into Nawahiokalani’opu’u Hawaiian Immersion School in Keaau, Hawaii.
10.28.13 ©PF Bentley/Civil Beat



Photo Credit: PF Bentley of Civil Beat