He Upena O Ke A'o Project

Stack of rocks in the shape of a person

Project Dates: 2005 – 2009

Funded by: CFDA, US Department of Health and Human Services, US Department of Education


Need: Almost half of the 49 Hawai`i Department of Education (DOE) schools with an enrollment of NH students of 50-92% are on the most recent list of schools as failing to improve student achievement and subject to state takeover. Educational challenges faced by Hawaiian and Part-Hawaiian students are well documented (Hawai`i DOE, 2003, Kanaiaupuni & Ishibashi, 2003). For example, despite comprising only 26% of its overall school-aged population, Hawaiians and Part-Hawaiians make up over 37% of the State’s special education students (Hawai`i DOE, 2003). Hawaiians and Part-Hawaiians were suspended in percentages significantly higher than their percent of the general education and special education populations (Schrag & Johnson, 2000). From 1996-2000 and in every district (7), with few exceptions, a higher percentage (approximately double the percentage) of special education students than general education students were suspended (Schrag & Johnson, 2000). Native Hawaiian students have higher rates of absenteeism, grade retention, and dropouts across socio-economic settings. Too many NH students are not engaged in learning, lack access to general education curriculum, or not in school.

Goals, Objectives, Features and Expected Benefits: The purpose of this professional development project is to train 75 teachers to attain competencies to meet the unique needs of Native Hawaiian (NH) students. Targeted trainees are teachers (K-12) working in Hawai`i DOE schools with concentrations of NH students. Trainees will complete a 9-credit Certificate in Designing Culturally Conscious, Inclusive Classrooms, specifically designed to improve the educational outcomes for NH students, including NH students with disabilities, within a culturally responsive learning environment. Three cohorts of 25 teachers will participate in certificate courses to acquire the skills needed to design culturally responsive, inclusive classrooms that provide for a broad range of learners and teach through the NH culture. Trainees participating in courses onsite or through distance learning across all islands will be supported by kupuna (elders), cultural experts, and graduate faculty with experience developing culturally responsive, standards-based curriculum for NH students in DOE school and providing high quality professional development. Project goals are: 1) implement a focused Certificate in Designing Culturally Conscious, Inclusive Classrooms; 2) recruit and retain 75 teachers on all islands; 3) develop a multi-use Digital Library on Culturally Conscious, Inclusive Classrooms to support and provide models (existing and developed NH curricula) for DOE teachers; and 4) disseminate/sustain certificate courses (preservice and inservice). Certificate courses will provide a sustained, continuous and supported (coaching) process for learning and applying knowledge and skills that support high student achievement and improved outcomes for NH students, including NH students with disabilities. The He Upena project is a partnership between ALU LIKE, Inc, and the Center on Disability Studies.