Hawaii adopts dual diploma tracks

Hawaiia is raising graduation requirements, starting with the class of 2018, but also creating a dual-track system:  Students will be able to opt for a less demanding diploma, the state board of education has decided. (The whole state is one school district.)

The “college and career ready” diploma will require students to complete two lab sciences, algebra 2 or an equivalent math course and a senior project.

Another track is designed for students who may not be interested in higher-level math or lab science, and so requires fewer math courses but still mandates that students take algebra 1 and biology to graduate.

Hawaii’s public schools are not very good, notes the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.  The state superintendent pledges to start working in elementary school to prepare students for higher graduation standards.

About Joanne


  1. I know people who have moved to Hawaii simply because the public schools were so good. I guess things can change.

  2. So, you’ve got your “college and career ready” track and your “college and career NOT ready” track?

    >The “college and career ready” diploma will require students to complete
    >two lab sciences, algebra 2 or an equivalent math course and a senior project.

    Even this track is dumbed down. No trig? No analytic geometry? No calculus? TWO lab sciences? This is what we used to call a “basic high school education” and now it’s “college and career ready”.

    Back in the 1970s when I was in high school, ambitious students planning to study anything serious in college took math through calculus and at least five science courses (biology, chemistry and physics, plus a second year of two of those).

    They have announced defeat and moved on.

  3. This is what we used to call a “basic high school education”

    No, it isn’t. Algebra wasn’t required for high school graduation until 2003, in California, and I don’t think any other states were dramatically earlier. Back when you were in high school, algebra wasn’t required anywhere to graduate from high school. And at no point until the last decade was “basic high school education” confused with college ready.

    There is currently a controversial move to require algebra II for all students–controversial because it’s never been done, and because simply requiring algebra I is relatively recent.

    So you don’t really know what you’re talking about.

  4. Clarification: I should say Algebra II has never been required until recently. Arkansas required it as of last year, as has widely been reported. What’s received less coverage is that Michigan required it from 2006 to 2009, when it already “un”required it.

    But any notion that public school routinely required anything beyond algebra II forty years ago, when in fact algebra I requirements are not all that old, is simply untrue.

  5. (Robert): “I know people who have moved to Hawaii simply because the public schools were so good. I guess things can change.
    When were Hawaii’s schools “good”?
    Back in the sixties and seventies DOE administrators claimed that Hawaii students performed below the national average in English and above the national average in Math. Then, in 1990, Hawaii participated in the NAEP, which put us in the national cellar in Math.

  6. tim-10-ber says:

    I went to private school in the early 70s…we were required to take three years of math to graduate, yes graduate…algebra I, geometry and Algebra II…we took three years of language, three years of science, four years of english, two or three years of history and I forget what else…

    Hawaii’s schools are not on anyone’s college track unless it is a JCO…

    government schools have always been behind the times…two or three tiered education system in this country, yep that is what we have…


  7. Sean Mays says:

    I attended public school in New York state in the mid 80’s. The upper track resulted in a “Regents Diploma”. It required 4 years of English, 3 of Social Studies, 3 Science (3 labs), at least 3 math and 3 foreign language; plus electives. There was a local diploma approved by the school board for those not interested in the academic track – but there were real vocational ed options for those who wanted them.

    Many states don’t have these requirements today. New York has actually moved backward last time I looked. Almost 30 years have passed since A Nation at Risk and it feels as if we’re hashing the same battles still.

    I know the Regents exams have been dumbed down. I had the pleasure of finding a set of Regents Exams in math from the Depression – WAY harder than the ones I took in the mid-80’s. Stuff that todays’ kids armed with graphing calculators would have problems with. The decedent eventually became an engineering professor. His notebooks and exam prep books were just beautiful. I used to show them to my students as exemplars.

  8. You all who talk about “three years of math” required do know that they had other types of math back then, right? Algebra wasn’t even required, much less geometry or algebra II.

    Curriculum Review

    After A Nation at Risk was published, schools cut back on vocational and elective options and built in more academic options. However:

    The new, more stringent curriculum standards did not influence all students equally. They did not target (and rarely affected) course-taking among college-bound students, most of whom surpassed the standards even before their adoption. But they had considerable impact on non-college-bound students. For example, enrollment in vocational courses declined considerably during the 1980s, whereas participation in core academic courses and the arts increased. Comparisons of random samples of high school transcripts gathered in 1982 and 1987 suggest a 17 percent increase in the number of mathematics credits completed (from 2.54 to 2.98 courses), and a 20 percent increase in science credits (from 2.19 to 2.63 courses) during the five-year period.26 Roughly one-quarter of students completed an extra year of mathematics, and one-third completed an extra year of science by the end of the decade.

    These Phase I curricular reforms targeted the number of credits students earned and (ostensibly) the subject matter of courses associated with those credits. However, the mandates often allowed school districts to decide which courses met the requirements or even which students were required to meet the standards.27 Many students were permitted to earn credits for courses in subjects that were non-academic or consisted of low-level or even remedial content.28 For example, Pennsylvania considered that “business math” fulfilled a core mathematics requirement.29 Within schools, multiple levels of the same course often satisfied the same requirement, even though the courses often differed substantially in both content and rigor. Thus, the increased graduation requirements constituting Phase I reform likely influenced academic rigor only marginally. In fact, the majority of new courses that high schools added to their curricula were at basic, general, or remedial levels. The move seemed understandable, however, given that the new requirements were mainly targeted at low-achieving students. One scholar summarized these efforts as “a national experiment in offering lower-level academic courses to middle- and low-achieving students who previously took something else (vocational courses, various electives).”

    It was only in the late 80s and 90s that an attack on “curriculum differentiation” started forcing everyone into algebra as the beginning, rather than the end, of math for low and mid-ability students. You can see that if you read on.

    Some of you really need to stop confusing your own experience as reality for everyone.

  9. Malcom, it looks like my friends were misinformed.

    But then again, it might depend on where in Hawaii.

    One friend of mine taught in Hawaii for a year in a lower class area and said the discipline problem was horrific.