Carol Nafus, president, Hawaii Parent Teacher Student Association
The head of the state’s Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) lives on Lanai and has been a Hawaii resident for less than five years. That hasn’t stopped Carol Nafus from plunging headlong into the fray as an advocate for her four children, who attend Lanai’s only public school.
Nafus says friends on the U.S. mainland questioned her when she told them she was moving here, because they thought the educational system was so bad. Says Nafus, “I want that to be changed. But I think Hawaii does that to itself. I think that we tend to dwell on that instead of going out there and doing something to make things better. We almost accept it, and then we complain about it instead of doing something about it. It’s going to be a tough road, but we owe it to our children.”
She has been trying to do something about it through her volunteer position, and has a pretty clear idea of a handful of things that could be done almost immediately.
1) Provide curricular enrichment. “Studies show that students who are involved in music, for instance, do better at math. I think it’s really important that we don’t just think about the three Rs. That we implement all different extracurricular activities, such as the arts,” says Nafus.
2) Implement the Board of Education’s Parent Involvement Policy. The policy, approved last May, reads, “… the Department, in collaboration with parents and guardians, shall establish programs and practices in each school that welcome and encourage family involvement and physical presence on school campuses, reflect the specific needs of students and their families, promote meaningful two-way communication, support responsible parenting, and provide for family participation in decisions that affect their children.”
3) Fund and implement the Comprehensive Teacher Induction and Mentoring Program. Nafus says the funding for this program, which provides a mechanism for teachers to help one another so that the schools end up with licensed, credentialed teachers, was recently restricted.
4) Implement the Center for Alternative Dispute Resolution in Education (CADRE), which helps students, teachers and parents with conflict resolution. Nafus says if a program and mechanism are put in place, then conflict resolution will be taken out of the classroom, so better learning can occur there.
5) Give the Hawaii teacher’s standards board autonomy and licensing. Nafus says we need to implement teacher-hiring standards. “There’s a lot of subbing going on, or there are a lot of teachers in class who aren’t qualified to the extent that they should be,” she says.
Nafus says there should be a number of measures of progress. “Testing should not be the only measure of student success,” she says. “Tests sometimes threaten the love of learning and creativity of students.
“I think we can be right on top with the best of the states. I really do. Because we have some very bright children. We have some very bright teachers. I think that everybody was pretty much on the same route. They were all headed in the same direction with the standards and everything else, and I think if we can just keep going in this direction, we will be okay. But we can’t just pass bills and let them sit there.”