Monday, January 28, 2008

House Committee on Education discusses an early learning system with Hawaii educators

Photo: Representatives end their early education tour in the cafeteria of Jefferson Elementary School. In photo left to right: Rep. Roy Takumi, Principal Vivian S.M. Hee, Rep. Tom Brower, Rep. Lyla Berg.

Rep. Roy Takumi (D-36), Rep. Lyla Berg (D-25) and Rep. Tom Brower (D-23), members of the House Committee on Education, took a tour of Jefferson Elementary School's Pre-Plus program on Friday, Jan. 25, 2008. They discussed some of the main goals and details of a new proposed bill with school educators and administration. The bill, HB2973, would establish an early learning system and a Keiki First Steps Program in Hawaii.

Here are some of my notes:

-Legislators and administration share four main goals: 1.) to expand on such early education programs such as Pre-Plus & Headstart by targeting all disadvantaged three-and four-year-olds. 2.) to develop quality programs that are safe, healthy and prepare three-and four-year-olds for academics. 3.) to have three- and four-year-olds enroll into early education programs that is located at their future elementary school. 4.) to enroll all three- and four-year-olds in Hawaii into early education programs.

Photo: Rep. Berg joins early education students and teaching assistants in an activity before lunch.

-There are currently 17 Pre-Plus programs in Hawaii (2 on the Big Island, 1 on Kauai, and 1 on Maui, 13 on Oahu.)

-Headstart is federally funded and charges $350.00 per child. Parents can apply for state subsidies. Most of the children at Jefferson qualify for subsidies.

-Legislators, educators and school administration shared their concern for a tracking system. Rep. Takumi suggested giving each child a number at the start of pre-education programs in order to track a student's success. However, this would involve a great deal of planning and would call for private and public departments working together.

-Principal Vivian S.M. Hee
discussed the implementation of "Junior Kindergarten." She said that it didn't make any difference or change the quality of learning for her students because placement is only based on age. If a child is not five years old by the debut of the school year, they are automatically placed in Junior-K, no exceptions. Some parents weren't satisfied with the program, and it just seemed like a nicer and convenient way to label kids who needed more help, according to Principal Hee. Currently, Junior-K students are mixed with Kindergarten students.

Photo: Rep. Takumi talks with early education teacher Penny Shiira about the Jefferson School early education program and the future of early childhood education in Hawaii.

-In order to have quality early education programs, schools like Jefferson Elementary need more space (facilities, buildings) and bodies (positions, teachers.)

-Children in the early education classes surprised Legislators when two little girls took the initiative to greet them at the door with a smile, hello and a handshake.

-Rep. Berg commented on a proposed bill to build a comprehensive early learning system in Hawaii, "If you don't start now, when?"

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