Contact: Pat Bergin, PK-12 Administrator
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Telephone: (808) 890-8144
Date: June 6, 2010
Kanu o ka ‘Āina New Century Public Charter School Receives Full Term of Accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges
First Hawaiian-Focused Public Charter School To Be Accredited Receives Six Year Term
Kanu o ka ‘Āina New Century Public Charter School, located in Waimea on Hawaiÿi Island, has received a full term of accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) for its K-12 program. The WASC accreditation is effective for six years with a midterm review, expiring on June 30, 2016. According to WASC Commission Chair Dale J. Mitchell, “This action was taken after a careful study of the Visiting Committee Report, which noted many laudable aspects of the school.”
Kanu o ka ‘Āina New Century Public Charter School is the State’s first accredited Hawaiian-focused charter school. “For a new school to receive a full accreditation term is virtually unheard of” said Kanu o ka ‘Āina’s Accreditation Chair Pat Bergin. “This is validation of the quality of education at Kanu, which is at once culturally-driven and academically rigorous and prepares students to walk comfortably in multiple worlds.”
Kanu o ka ‘Āina New Century Public Charter School, the oldest of a dozen Hawaiian-focused public charter schools on Kauaÿi, Oÿahu and Hawaiÿi Island, is the first public school in Hawaiÿi to participate in a joint WASC and Hawaiiÿi Association of Independent Schools (HAIS) review, up to now reserved for Hawaiÿi’s prestigious private schools. “We chose to pursue a joint HAIS/WASC accreditation,” said Kanu o ka ‘Āina Director Kū Kahakalau, “because we agree with HAIS that the best kind of school evaluation is based on the premise that a school is evaluated in terms of its own stated purpose and objectives. This preserves both accountability and diversity. As the first Hawaiian-focused public charter school to become accredited, it was absolutely critical for us to be evaluated based on our unique Pedagogy of Aloha, which balances cultural values and academic rigor.”
In his letter of congratulations to the school, WASC Executive Director David Brown stated: “Maintaining an effective quality program for students in the face of today’s challenges is a truly commendable feat.” With a population of 220 K-12 students, over 80 percent of native Hawaiian ancestry, and a 2010 per pupil State allocation of $ 5,300 (compared to an average 2010 HAIS tuition of $23,000), Kanu o ka ‘Āina has successfully overcome countless obstacles over the past decade.
"The recent WASC accreditation confirms our success in preparing confident, caring and academically and culturally proficient students, who are as skilled working on a computer as they are working in a taro patch, who are comfortable in both a malo and a suit, but prefer shorts and rubber slippers, who have both Hawaiian and Western skill sets and the discernment when to use them." said Kahakalau. "Getting a six year accreditation is truly an honor, and demonstrates the quality programs we provide and the high caliber of our faculty and students.
Becoming accredited has multiple implications for Kanu o ka ‘Āina. For one, accreditation validates the integrity of the school’s program and attests to the quality of its graduates. The process also holds the school publicly accountable to families, foundations, corporations, and financial and educational institutions interested in supporting Kanu o ka ‘Āina and its non-profit the Kanu o ka ‘Āina Learning ‘Ohana dba KALO. “What is more,” according to Kahakalau, “by assuring that Kanu o ka ‘Āina meets certain generally accepted standards of educational quality, operation and staff competence, accreditation repudiates those who question the rigor of Hawaiian-focused education and the ability of Hawaiian communities to design and control our own quality processes of education that meet the unique needs of our children.”
Another implication of becoming accredited is that according to Hawaiÿi Charter School law, for every start-up charter school that becomes accredited another start-up charter slot opens. This may actually have a negative impact on the school. According to Kahakalau, who also represents Hawaiian-focused charter schools on the Charter School Review Panel, “We are worried about the future. Despite over a decade of intense education and lobbying efforts, we still have not even come close to equity in funding. Until the funding issues are resolved and public education monies truly follow the child, regardless of whether they attend a DOE or a public charter school, any new charter will take away from the very limited funds charters are currently receiving. Given our validation of excellence this should not be so. Charters should be seen by Hawaiÿi’s legislature, which determines public school funding, as a quality choice for Hawaiÿi public school students, not as a threat to the system.”
Kanu o ka ‘Āina was chartered in 2000, after a group of dynamic, dedicated educators, parents, community leaders and visionaries began to pool their strengths based on the Hawaiian principle of kūkulu kumuhana, to close the achievement gap for Hawaiÿi’s native student population. Over the past decade, this innovative, community-based K-12 school has incubated a unique Pedagogy of Aloha that integrates place- and project-based learning, driven by a commitment to a sustainable Hawaiÿi, with a values-based, bi-lingual curriculum that teaches English and Hawaiian from kindergarten through high school. In her congratulatory message to the school, Visiting Team Chair Diane Anderson, a retired Punahou teacher, stated, “Your ‘responsibility’ increases with this accreditation - to your current and future students, to the other charter schools, and to all of us - as a model for what education could be and could become for all students.”