Not All Grads Ready For UH

Larry Price
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Wednesday - December 01, 2010
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More than a third of Hawaii public school graduates who enrolled in the University of Hawaii system last year needed remedial instruction in math or English.

That’s according to the nonprofit advocate group Hawaii P-20 Partnerships for Education. Its report, called the “College and Career Readiness Indicators,” is an effort to better understand where students are going once they leave Hawaii high schools and how prepared they are for college or a career.

Garrett Toguchi, chairman of the Board of Education, says that we’re not really providing the kinds of resources that we need to help students entering college.

It’s pretty obvious now that the body of knowledge being taught to high school students is growing at a mercurial rate, and it’s getting harder and harder for teachers to stuff more knowledge into the students in such a short time.

The cost of adding more days to the school year is necessary, but the question is where’s the money?


Mr. Toguchi said something else that was worthy of note: “College-going alone is not the best indicator of student success.” Darrel Galera, well-respected principal of Moanalua High School, said, “Our concern is it’s being taken like this is the real data. We feel like we get bashed around enough.” He’s right.

I’m not suggesting that there is no room for improvement in the DOE. But this report does little to provide helpful data. Without meaningful structure, it’s nothing but numbers randomly thrown together.

I’m one of those students who had remedial instruction in math and English. As I look back on my educational trek through the system, I think, first, I was not ready for college. If you came from Kaaawa by bus and end up on University Avenue looking for the Atherton House, the campus was a scary place. Lucky for me, I was assigned a dorm mate named Eduardo Malapit from Kauai. He was kind of lost, too, but a senior, much smarter and a good pool player. We ate every night at Kuhio Grill and evaluated our trials and tribulations. I got drafted into the U.S. Army during the Korean War and Malapit went on to graduate, entered the Notre Dame Law School and became mayor of Kauai. Counting my Army time, it took me nine years to graduate from UH, but I did it. I passed English 100 in my senior year, thanks to the extra attention from Dr. Eleanor Billsburough.

You see, it wasn’t that I lacked the high school preparation. I just wasn’t ready for college when college was ready for me. That’s what’s missing in this report. It doesn’t point out that students in rural public schools need more attention to get ready for the experience.


These kind of reports do nothing to motivate students. If anything, it makes the whole process more frightening.

Now that I’ve been a teacher for the past 25 years, I can safely say I have never met a college professor (or editor) who does not bemoan the performance of their remedial students. These college professors are a tough lot. When you are in an English class and the professor asks you something like “Aren’t you a graduate of Roosevelt High School? Isn’t that an English Standard school?” you know you are in trouble.

Let’s face it, not all students are alike and it’s not a good idea to suggest they are. Some students are late bloomers. If your kid is not mature enough to go to college, don’t force him. Never mind what the report says. Be patient.

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