Conference looks at innovation, rather than test scores for Hawaii’s education future

Educators, policy makers and concerned parents gathered on Saturday to provide suggestions on how to improve Hawaii’s schools.

The 3rd Annual Hawaii School Empowerment Conference was held at the Hawaii Convention Center.

Among those in attendance was Gov. David Ige, who emphasized his administration’s goals to focus schools on innovation instead of having students focus on preparing for tests.

“Coding. Robotics. Digital media. International education exchanges. None of these programs were offered when I attended public schools in Pearl City,” the governor said, “and it’s impossible to predict what fascinating opportunities await students in coming years.

“What I can tell you is this: The success of today’s students in the future workplace and in our communities requires the transformation of a school system designed over a century ago,” he said.

He’s hoping students will become future problem-solvers, entrepreneurs and community leaders.

“I want students, parents, teachers and other educators to be assured that my goal is to reshape the department so that it supports the dreams and aspirations of each student. I believe those closest to the students understand best how their students should be educated. That is the type of system we are working together to achieve.

The governor went on to say that “we don’t know what the next technological wave will bring. But we do know that Hawaii’s public education system must be set up so teachers are able to exercise their professional judgement and employ tools that enable student success.

“Students who design robots in elementary school will build the communities of the future. Students who experience what it’s like to be innovators and entrepreneurs in high school will drive the state’s new economy. Students who travel with their class will collaborate with their peers around the world to solve global challenges. It is our responsibility to provide them with a robust learning experience so they can achieve rewarding and successful lives.”

It’s a sentiment shared by the teacher’s union. “Too often, things like art and music and Hawaiian studies and even social studies and science are often ignored in order to get those higher test scores, and I think that if we turn that around, it will be a difference,” said Hawaii State Teachers Association President Corey Rosenlee.

The Department of Education says some of that work has already begun in classrooms around the state.

But there is some question on how it all might get paid for while schools are still dealing with distractions from the heat in some classrooms during the hotter months.

KHON2 was told those decisions will be made by legislators as the budgets for educational programs and capital improvements like air conditioning are decided.

This year’s legislative session officially begins on Wednesday.

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