Native Hawaiians Overrepresented in Special Ed

According to C. L. Haliniak, Native Hawaiians are overrepresented in DOE Special Education classes.1 Native Hawaiian (NH) students make up 26% of the public school population, but they represent 39.1% of SE students. In raw numbers, that’s 6,649 NHs in SE.

Click image to view a PDF of the publication. The section on Special Ed begins on page 6.

NHs are nearly twice as likely (14.6% vs 8.3%) to end up in SE as non-NHs. NH boys are twice as likely to be in SE than NH girls (19.2% vs 9.6%). The long-term impact for these thousands of students is poverty. “For those students in special education who are able to obtain employment after graduation, they are more likely to have entry-level jobs with lower wage earnings and limited opportunities for promotions” (6).

Hawaiian-immersion schools and programs are a response to the poor performance of NH students in public schools. The assumption is that non-NH teacher ethnicity and non-NH language/culture are key contributing factors. In the coming years, national and state statistics (e.g., NAEPDOE, and UH stats) should be able to confirm this assumption.
1 Haliniak, C.L. (2017). A Native Hawaiian Focus on the Hawaiʻi Public School System, SY2015. (Hoʻonaʻauao (Education) Fact Sheet, Vol. 2017, No.1). Honolulu, HI: Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Research Division, Special Projects.

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