A Different Way to Learn: Hawaii’s Public Charter Schools

kids on voyaging canoe

by Sheryl Turbeville
Services and Communications Director
Hawaiʻi State Public Charter School Commission

Students learn from many sources and each student has their own learning style, so finding the right school for your child is an important part of ensuring their success. Public charter schools are an integral part of Hawaiʻi’s educational system. Parents should consider the many public charter schools available to their child. No two charter schools are the same and each offers a different learning environment; some offer blended learning, others focus on Hawaiian language immersion, or are Hawaiian culture focused, others offer an arts integrated program, others offer project based learning, and one even offers a Waldorf model of learning. Public charter schools often focus on hands-on, real world experiences that help their students become not only academic high achievers but also respectful and caring young citizens.

kids taking part in a cooking class

Hawaiiʻs charter schools journey started in 1994 when the Hawaiʻi State Legislature passed Act 272, allowing up to 25 existing Department of Education schools to convert to student-centered schools which would operate as individual learning units within the public school system.

In 1999, the legislature passed Act 62 which encouraged the growth of New Century Charter Schools (NCCS) which could be start-up and conversion charter schools (schools which were formerly DOE schools that converted to charter schools).

Hawaiʻi public charter schools are tuition-free public schools of choice open to all, serving students in kindergarten through 12th grade. There are currently 37 public charter schools in Hawaiʻi serving more than 12,000 students on five islands and are located all across the state from Honolulu to Waiʻanae, from Pāhoa to Laupāhoehoe, Hawaiʻi to Kekaha, Kauaʻi and Kualapuʻu, Molokaʻi. Public charter schools are typically smaller in student body size with a more favorable teacher to student ratio. Select schools also offer free high-quality preschool programs in many areas considered early learning deserts, where there is a deficit of child care spots compared to the number of children who may need them.

a teacher and child making frog puppets

Each public charter school has a unique mission and vision. And while they have more autonomy when it comes to their curriculum compared to traditional public schools, all schools must still demonstrate academic success with accountability as a state public school. Schools are run by a governing board that is responsible for the financial, organizational, and academic viability of the charter school and implementation of the charter contract with the Hawaiʻi State Public Charter School Commission. The Commission is the State of Hawaii’s statewide charter school authorizer. The Commissionʻs mission is to authorize high-quality public charter schools throughout Hawaiʻi by soliciting, evaluating, and approving applications for new schools; negotiating and executing sound school contracts; monitoring performance and legal compliance of our schools; and determining renewal, nonrenewal, or revocation of their charter contracts. The Commission works to ensure that taxpayer dollars are being spent properly and students are receiving a high-quality education.

Our public charter schools are laboratories of innovation, creating meaningful learning experiences and finding ways to engage the different types of student learners to close the achievement gap. Public charter schools also provide Hawaiʻiʻs families with more public school choices while preparing students for success in education and life.

a group of kids restoring wetlands

The 37 public charter schools across the state vary in size and focus, giving parents more options for their child’s learning experience. These include:

  • Brick and mortar schools, where students come for in-person learning
  • Blended learning schools, where students learn both face-to-face and online with a strong teacher-parent or -tutor partnership to offer support and learning at home
  • STEM/STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, (the Arts) and Mathematics
  • Kaiapuni or Hawaiian language immersion or Hawaiian medium schools
  • Hawaiian culture focused schools
  • Project-based learning schools, where students engage in real-world problems and projects that are meaningful to them. Math, Science, Reading, Writing and Technology are integrated into their projects
  • Early learning preschool experiences help prepare children for success in school and in life. The goal of this early learning program is to build a child’s existing skills and strengthen a family’s ability to support their child’s learning.

Learn more about Hawaiʻi Charter Schools.

Charter Schools on Oʻahu

  • DreamHouse ʻEwa Beach
    Grades Served: 6-8 (adding an additional year every year until grade 12)
    Kapolei, HI – 808-437-7771
  • Hakipuʻu Academy
    Grades Served: 6-12
    Kāneʻohe, HI – 808-235-9155
  • Hālau Kū Māna Public Charter School
    Grades Served: 4-12
    Honolulu, HI – 808-945-1600
  • Hawaiʻi Technology Academy
    Grades Served: K-12
    Waipahu, HI – 808-676-5444 (statewide)
  • Ka Waihona o ka Na’auao
    Grades Served: K-8
    Waiʻanae, HI – 808-620-9030
  • Kamaile Academy
    Grades Served: Pre-K to 12
    Waiʻanae, HI – 808-697-7110
  • Kamalani Academy
    Grades Served: K-8
    Wahiawā, HI – 808-203-2993
  • Ke Kula ʻo Samuel M. Kamakau Laboratory Public Charter School
    Grades Served: Pre-K to 12
    Kāneʻohe, HI – 808-235-9175
  • Kaʻōhao Elementary School
    Grades Served: K-6
    Kailua, HI – 808-266-7844
  • Kapolei Charter School by Goodwill Hawaiʻi
    Grades Served: 9-12
    Kapolei, HI – 808-690-9909
  • Mālama Honua Public Charter School
    Grades Served: K-8
    Waimānalo, HI – 808-259-5522
  • Myron Thompson Academy
    Grades Served: K-12
    Statewide – 808-441-8000
  • SEEQS: the School for Examining Essential Questions of Sustainability
    Grades Served: 6-8
    Honolulu, HI – 808-677-3377
  • University Laboratory School
    Grades Served: K-12
    Honolulu, HI – 808-956-7833
  • Voyager Public Charter School
    Grades Served: K-8
    Honolulu, HI – 808-521-9770
  • Waiʻalae Elementary Public Charter School
    Grades Served: Pre-K to 5
    Honolulu, HI – 808-733-4880

Find A Charter School

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