Epic School Partnerships LogoDepartments of Education, districts, and schools should be paying attention to what is happening in Hawai’i in terms of supporting student learning outcomes that put community and culture first in their quest to ensure kids are career and college ready. While in Hawai’i presenting at the Hawai’ian Islands College Access Network conference, I was able to see first hand how schools are using Native Hawaiian culture as the foundation for all learning.


Hawai'i cliff

Nā Hopena A’o  (HĀ) are a set of learning outcomes derived from key elements of Native Hawai’ian culture. The six key outcomes include Belonging, Responsibility, Excellence, Aloha, Total Well-Being, and Hawai’i. These values, beliefs, and ways to see the world provide a foundation for school success and are being incorporated in both Native Hawai’ian immersion programs and traditional public schools across the islands.


This past week, I had an opportunity to visit schools where HĀ is evident each and every day. At both schools, I was greeted in a traditional ceremony led by students that incorporated Belonging, Responsibility, Aloha, and Hawai’i (one could argue all six parts of HĀ were present in the ceremony). I witnessed students receiving instruction in Native Hawai’ian tradition and culture that is truly CORE to who these students are and to what their educational experience is all about.

At this point in time, these types of learning activities and learning outcomes are not reflected in Hawaii’s accountability model and thus are discouraged in more traditional settings because of the impact on instructional time. I would argue that what I experienced and the educational value HĀ brings both within and outside of the school day (extension into the community, family, etc.) should be a critical component of students learning experiences and should be celebrated and incorporated in some form or fashion within the accountability frameworks being used.

I am very excited about what is happening in Hawai’i and for states and districts to utilize key elements of culture and community to drive quality educational opportunities for all students.


Nā Hopena A’o Statements

Big Island HICAN Meeting Keynote Presentation – 100% of our students need to be community and career ready