For Hawaii Grads, Social Studies on Chopping Block

High schoolers in Hawaii could face fewer social sciences requirements as soon as 2016, but not if their teachers have anything to say about it.

Nearly two dozen community members — many of them social sciences teachers from across the state, including Maui — implored the Board of Education Student Achievement Committee to reject a Department of Education recommendation to change graduation requirements for the class of 2018. The proposed changes would bring Hawaii into compliance with the national Common Core State Standards and, consequently, federal Race to the Top requirements.

The recommendation gets rid of the BOE Recognition diploma, reduces the number of credits required to graduate and increases the number of elective course opportunities for students. But to give students more time to take electives, the department has proposed requiring only three social studies courses in the future, instead of the four currently required.

The proposal comes on the heels of reports that students all over the nation are lagging in their understanding of U.S. history. Hawaii has once again received a 'C' for its U.S. history standards.

Despite nearly five hours of discussion and testimony, the committee voted to forward the department's recommendation to the full board, with an amendment to implement it in 2016 — two years sooner than the department planned. The recommendation will now go to the teachers union for a 45-day "consult and confer" period before going on to the full board for a vote on Aug. 16.

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