For much of the 2020-21 school year — following last spring’s abrupt campus closures and pivots to distance learning due to the pandemic — a vast majority of Hawaii’s public school students have been enrolled in either full-time virtual classrooms or a blend of online and in-person modes.
Now, amid rising evidence that the virtual setup has contributed to higher levels of failing grades and heightened risks for students disconnecting or dropping out, focus must be fixed on recouping learning losses and better situating students on a path to post-high school success. The state Department of Education (DOE) must make the most of its just-announced super-sized menu of summer learning offerings.
However, while there’s an eagerness among some outside organizations to pitch in with tutoring and mentoring services, according to recent testimony submitted to the state Board of Education (BOE) by community nonprofits, there’s no easy-to-navigate pipeline to forge partnerships with the DOE. The department must actively troubleshoot this matter now, to optimize its crucial summer catch-up push.
For starters, HawaiiKidsCAN, Parents for Public Schools Hawaii and others rightly point out that gaps in the staffing lineup could likely be filled with retired teachers, new graduates from education programs, substitute teachers and the like. Further, a top priority should be placed on fully serving communities with large counts of high-needs students. For instance, in the Nanakuli-Waianae complex area, an alarming 44% of students are flagged for high-risk attendance versus 11% in Aiea-Moanalua-Radford. Resources allotted to complex areas should be based on need.