By Cheryl Corbiell
Ho`olehua— On the grass courtyard of Molokai Middle School (MMS), students, parents, faculty, administration, kupuna, church leaders and community members cheered and applauded the State of Hawaii Board of Education chair, Donald G. Horner, yesterday at a school celebration for academic achievement when Mr. Horner publicly announced MMS was the “The Most Improved Public School in Hawaii.”
“Since separating from the high school eight years ago, this school has now achieved AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) and that is a significant achievement,” said Horner. “What you have done is send a message to 180,000 children from Kauai to the Big Island. Those students are looking at you and saying, if they can do it, we can do it to. Thank you for what you’ve done and will continue to do.”
The test scores in July 2012 showed MMS had outscored the district and state in the science category of the Hawaiian State Assessment; achieved 65 percent of students testing in math at the proficient or higher level; and exceeded the national math standard. Plus, the school achieved a whopping 15 percent increase in reading scores. MMS’s persistence elevated the school onto the path to excellence.
The students excel outside the classroom as well. In last year’s Maui County science fair, MMS students had more winning projects than any other school. Then at the Maui County engineering competition, a wahine team won when its popsicle bridge withstood 250 pounds after the judges ran out of weights to test the bridge. Other student bridges withstood only 50 pounds.
Another outstanding performance was the robotics team, which took first place in the Maui County competition. The team is headed for the state finals in December.
At a math competition at Iolani School, the MMS team excelled. In the head-to-head tournament where the two highest scorers compete against each other, a MMS eighth grade student emerged as champion of the tournament. With only 209 students, MMS is changing people’s minds about what success can look like in a rural school.
Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) Chairperson and Trustee representing Molokai, Colette Machado, said, “So often we hear rural communities can not comply with the No Child Left Behind Act. The statistics say if you come from a rural area and have a majority of Native Hawaiians, you will not succeed. In 2010, Molokai Middle School was second to the lowest in the state, and I’m proud to tell you now the statistics say you have increased in every subject area. This school with the majority of its students being Native Hawaiians and many living on homestead lands is proving to people you can excel in school,” said Machado.
The Molokai Middle School is composed of 81 percent Native Hawaiians, which makes it one of the largest Native Hawaiian school populations in a Hawaii DOE school.
The school was a recipient of an OHA community grant in 2011-12. The funds were matched by a Mycogen Seeds grant and used to purchase rolling computer labs, which increased access to information and streamlined the Hawaii State Assessment online testing. This technological improvement is credited with turning the corner for the school’s transformation.
What is next for this small school of 209 students? Principal Gary Davidson said, “Our next goal is to be the best school in the state, and we are already working on it.”