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With its beautiful beaches, iconic waves, and laidback vibe, Hawaii is known as an island paradise. But how does the Aloha State stack up when it comes to academics and educational achievement? In this comprehensive article, we’ll analyze Hawaii’s education system and see how it compares nationally.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Hawaii ranks slightly above average among U.S. states for educational achievement and quality.

Hawaii’s Academic Performance

When it comes to education, Hawaii has made significant progress in recent years. Let’s take a closer look at Hawaii’s academic performance in terms of standardized test scores, high school graduation rates, and Advanced Placement (AP) pass rates.

Standardized Test Scores

Hawaii’s standardized test scores have shown improvement over the years. According to the Hawaii Department of Education, the proficiency rates in English Language Arts and Mathematics have increased steadily. In 2019, for example, 54% of students met or exceeded proficiency standards in English Language Arts, while 47% met or exceeded proficiency standards in Mathematics. Although there is still room for improvement, these numbers indicate positive growth.

High School Graduation Rates

Hawaii’s high school graduation rates have also seen positive trends. According to data from the U.S. Department of Education, the statewide graduation rate for the 2018-2019 school year was 84.1%. This is a significant improvement from previous years and reflects the efforts made by educators and policymakers to support student success. It is important to note that graduation rates can vary among different schools and regions within Hawaii.

Advanced Placement (AP) Pass Rates

Advanced Placement (AP) courses offer students the opportunity to earn college credit while still in high school. Hawaii has seen an increase in AP participation and pass rates in recent years. According to the College Board, the organization responsible for AP exams, 23.4% of Hawaii’s graduating class of 2020 participated in AP exams. Additionally, the percentage of students who scored a 3 or higher (the score required by many colleges for credit or placement) increased to 64.7%. These numbers demonstrate the dedication of both students and teachers in preparing for these rigorous exams.

Hawaii’s Education Funding and Expenditures

When it comes to education, funding plays a crucial role in determining the quality of education provided to students. In the case of Hawaii, the state has made significant efforts to invest in its education system. Let’s take a closer look at some key aspects of education funding and expenditures in Hawaii.

Per Pupil Spending

Per pupil spending is an important indicator of the resources allocated to each student in the education system. In Hawaii, the per pupil spending has seen steady growth over the years. According to the Department of Education, the per pupil spending in Hawaii for the 2020-2021 school year was $14,167. This amount includes both state and federal funding and is used to cover various expenses such as instructional materials, teacher salaries, and infrastructure improvements.

Teacher Salaries

Ensuring competitive teacher salaries is crucial for attracting and retaining high-quality educators. In Hawaii, there has been a concerted effort to improve teacher salaries in recent years. According to the Hawaii State Teachers Association, the average salary for teachers in Hawaii for the 2020-2021 school year was $64,871. This figure reflects the state’s commitment to valuing teachers and recognizing the important role they play in shaping the future of Hawaii’s students.

Higher Education Funding

Investing in higher education is vital for the overall development of a state’s workforce and economy. In Hawaii, higher education funding has been a priority. The University of Hawaii, the state’s flagship public university system, receives funding from both the state and federal government. This funding is used to support research, infrastructure development, scholarships, and other initiatives aimed at providing quality higher education to students in Hawaii.

For more information on education funding and expenditures in Hawaii, you can visit the official website of the Hawaii State Department of Education at

Hawaii’s Education Policies and Programs

Common Core Standards

Hawaii has embraced the Common Core Standards, which are a set of educational standards adopted by most states in the United States. These standards outline what students should know and be able to do in English Language Arts and Mathematics at each grade level. By implementing the Common Core Standards, Hawaii aims to ensure that its students are well-prepared for college and career success.

The Common Core Standards provide a consistent framework for teaching and learning, allowing educators to focus on developing students’ critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication skills. They also encourage a deeper understanding of core concepts and encourage students to apply their knowledge in real-world situations.

Hawaii DOE Initiatives

The Hawaii Department of Education (DOE) has implemented various initiatives to improve the quality of education in the state. One such initiative is the “Strive HI” system, which assesses schools based on multiple factors, including student achievement, growth, and readiness for college and careers. This system helps identify schools that need additional support and resources, allowing the DOE to provide targeted assistance where it is most needed.

The DOE also focuses on increasing access to high-quality early learning opportunities, as research shows that early childhood education has a significant impact on a child’s long-term success. By investing in early learning programs, Hawaii aims to ensure that all children have a strong foundation for future academic achievement.

Teacher Training and Support

Hawaii recognizes the importance of well-trained and supported teachers in providing a high-quality education. The state offers a comprehensive teacher development program, which includes ongoing professional development opportunities and mentoring for new educators.

The DOE also provides resources and support for teachers to implement effective instructional strategies and engage students in meaningful learning experiences. This includes access to curriculum materials, technology tools, and instructional coaches who can provide guidance and feedback.

Furthermore, Hawaii values the collaboration and input of educators in shaping education policies and programs. The state actively involves teachers in decision-making processes through committees and focus groups, ensuring that their expertise and perspectives are considered.

Hawaii’s Education Challenges

Teacher Shortages

One of the major challenges facing Hawaii’s education system is the shortage of qualified teachers. This issue is not unique to Hawaii, as many states across the United States are experiencing a similar problem. However, the shortage is particularly acute in Hawaii due to various factors, such as the high cost of living and geographic isolation. The lack of qualified teachers can have a significant impact on the quality of education provided to students.

In an effort to address this issue, the Hawaii Department of Education has implemented various initiatives to attract and retain teachers. These include offering competitive salaries, providing professional development opportunities, and creating incentives for teachers to work in hard-to-staff schools. Despite these efforts, the teacher shortage remains a pressing concern for Hawaii’s education system.

Impact of High Cost of Living

The high cost of living in Hawaii is another significant challenge that affects the education system. The state consistently ranks among the highest in terms of cost of living in the United States. This makes it difficult for educators to afford housing, transportation, and other essential expenses. As a result, many teachers are forced to take on second jobs or live in less desirable areas, which can impact their overall well-being and job satisfaction.

The high cost of living also has an indirect impact on students. Families struggling to make ends meet may not have the financial resources to provide their children with the necessary educational support, such as access to tutoring or extracurricular activities. This can contribute to educational disparities and hinder academic achievement.

Geographic Isolation of Islands

Hawaii’s geographic isolation presents unique challenges for its education system. The state consists of multiple islands, which can make it difficult to provide equitable educational opportunities to all students. Some remote areas may have limited access to resources, such as specialized teachers, technology, and educational programs.

The geographic isolation also affects professional development opportunities for teachers. Attending conferences or workshops may require travel to other islands or even to the mainland, which can be costly and time-consuming. This can limit the exposure of educators to new teaching methods and best practices.

Despite these challenges, Hawaii’s education system continues to strive for improvement. Efforts are being made to address teacher shortages, reduce the impact of the high cost of living, and ensure that all students have access to a quality education. By recognizing and addressing these challenges, Hawaii can work towards providing a better educational experience for its students.


In conclusion, while Hawaii faces some unique challenges due to its remote location and high cost of living, its public education system generally ranks above average nationally in terms of academic achievement, funding levels, and innovative programs. By investing in their teachers and adopting rigorous standards, Hawaii aims to provide high-quality education tailored to its diverse island communities.

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