Pihana Na Mamo: The Native Hawaiian Special Education Project

Since 1990, Pihana Na Mamo, a joint project with the Hawai‘i Department of Education, has worked with Hawai‘i schools identify, develop, and implement effective programs meet the unique needs of students in the project. Its mission to improve educational outcomes of K–12 special needs students of Hawaiian or part-Hawaiian ancestry. The project emphasizes developing (a) beginning reading skills, b) positive behavior support, and (c) family and community participation. These initiatives have resulted in reading programs in 32 schools serving large numbers of Hawaiian and part-Hawaiian students, statewide adoption by the Hawai‘i Department of Education of a positive support model, and parent/community involvers in 21 schools throughout the state.

The current 5-year project cycle, which started in 2000, developing and expanding these major components:

  • Heluhelu, which targets the development of key beginning reading skills in K–3 students and provides intensive interventions for upper elementary and secondary students falling below key reading benchmarks.
  • Kako‘o, a pro-social and culturally appropriate support system for secondary students at risk for school failure and dropout.
  • Makua Hanai, an outreach program to encourage and support parent and community participation in the education of Hawaiian and part-Hawaiian children.
  • Curriculum and material adaptations to meet the cultural needs of Hawaiian and part-Hawaiian students and their families.
  • Multimedia documentation as part of a comprehensive evaluation of the program’s effects.


  • Pihana Na Mamo has worked with Hawai‘i schools for over thirteen years to identify, develop, and implement effective programs to improve educational outcomes for K–12 special needs students of Hawaiian or part- Hawaiian ancestry.
  • The Laboratory School increased its enrollment of special needs students this school year.

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