The following oral testimony by Amber Strong was delivered to the Hawaii State Board of Education on August 16 in opposition to the Hawaii State Department of Education’s Policy 4540, which aims to eliminate “Participation in a Democracy” as a required course for graduation and change the high school social studies credit requirements from three to four.
Aloha Chairman Don Horner and Members of the Board of Education,
I am Dr. Amber Strong Makaiau. For the past 10 years, I have been a social studies teacher and education researcher who has dedicated herself to improving public schools in Hawaii. Today, you are discussing the status of Policy 4540, and the purpose of my testimony is to make sure that the question of rigor is addressed in your discussion.
As adults it is our responsibility to make decisions for our adolescent learners that mandate rigor, because in the long run it opens up their world to opportunity.
If we reduce the number of social studies credits needed for graduation, we are not only setting low expectations for our students, but creating an educational policy that limits our students’ future choices. One of the worst things I deal with as a senior-year teacher is students, who in their final semester of high school finally decide that they want to go to college, but can’t because they didn’t take the right courses.
The Princeton Review recently published “The Best 376 Colleges of 2012.” In this book they include the academic admissions policies for each of the schools listed. When rating the top 20 schools with “the best classroom experience,” 65 percent of them had a policy of four or more social studies credits.
When examining the best colleges and universities for Science Technology and Engineering: 52 percent of the top engineering schools, 47.5 percent of the top biology schools, and 46 percent of the top computer science and computer engineering schools also had policies of four or more high school social studies credits.
Don’t we believe that our public school students in Hawaii should be prepared to attend these top schools if they want to?
Policy 4540 may give students more choice in the short term, but by reducing the fourth social studies credit requirement, Policy 4540 is really an institutionalized structure that marginalizes Hawaii’s youth and leaves them with less choice in the long run.