The Hawaii Department of Education plans to gradually roll out the option of preparing student report cards in languages other than English, starting with Hawaiian, according to a presentation delivered to the Board of Education last week.

“What we are going to be able to look at doing is, (ask), what language would you like your report card in, family, and we will be able to give it to you in that language,” Brook Conner, chief information officer for the department, told the board.

It’s not clear when the option might become available, but the idea was floated as part of a lengthy presentation Conner delivered outlining the DOE’s five-year plan to move documents online, modernize its financial systems and plan other technological updates.

Board of Education meeting. Catherine Payne .

DOE’s student information system, Infinite Campus, will allow issuing report cards in a variety of  languages.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Roughly 8% of Hawaii’s public student body, or close to 15,000 students, are “English learners,” with the most common languages spoken among students being Ilocano, Chuukese, Marshallese, Tagalog, Spanish, Japanese, Mandarin and Samoan, according to a 2019 DOE briefing to the Legislature.

A March 2016 report by the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism measured Hawaiian as the fifth-most spoken language at home other than English, behind Tagalog, Ilocano, Japanese and Spanish.

Both English and Hawaiian are considered official languages of the state, which is why the DOE may be looking in that direction first when it comes to the report cards.

In early 2016, the Board of Education approved a new “Multilingualism for Equitable Education” policy whose three-year implementation plan included providing language programs for multilingual students, equipping teachers with more preparation and instructional materials and providing better outreach to families.

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