Araki Launches Kaimuki High Team Into Turn-around Mode

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Kaimuki High School principal Wade Araki


As the 2012 School Turnaround Principal of the Year, Wade Araki should be dizzy by now.

He was already known for the turnaround work he’d done at Ben Parker Elementary School in Kaneohe. But now, following his second year at Kaimuki High School, he’s done it again.

“I started to look for another challenge,” he explained. Araki chose Kaimuki because of its demographics and the makeup of its students. “I enjoyed working with all the mixed ethnicities, so I looked at the struggles Kaimuki students were facing, and I knew about their dropping enrollment and bad reputation.”

Under his leadership, the high school has focused on several strategies to increase achievement in reading and mathematics, including: 1) Monthly benchmark assessments of all freshmen and sophomores. Teachers analyze the data and plan instruction based on student needs 2) Professional development focusing quarterly on data assessment and classroom intervention strategies for all teachers 3) Tutoring during winter and spring intersessions in English and mathematics 4) Credit recovery courses after school, in the evenings, during intersessions and in the summer to help students make up credits towards graduation. Tutorial services also held after school and on Saturdays for students needing additional support 5) A schoolwide attendance policy implemented that continues to be monitored to improve student attendance.

These changes were enforced immediately, and although it has only been a year, Kaimuki High’s graduation rate is already up. For example, there were about 199 graduates in 2011, and 242 graduates in 2012.

Araki and his staff believe in small learning communities, so they split up the campus into two Alpha and Beta houses, making it possible for faculty to monitor and follow students throughout all four years.

“We are a collaborative environment, but overall improvement will be a three to five-year process,” Araki said. “We also are planning a student-led conference that will help them map out what they will be doing in five years.”

Kaimuki, meanwhile, has continued to focus on promoting college and career expectations after high school through parent workshops, college speakers, career fairs and professional development for teachers so they cant help students to prepare for college.

Araki’s award includes $5,000 for his personal use, and $1,000 for the school.

School Turnaround is a leadership development initiative that helps principals and superintendents immediately improve academic achievement.