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Teacher quality, teacher training tops concerns of Education Summit report

joy@samoanews.com

The Department of Education’s recruitment system is “haphazard and very unreliable and continues to build the number of untrained teachers.” This was part of the first education summit’s full report submitted by the Education Summit Commission to Gov. Lolo M. Moliga.
 
The report also indicates 74% of teachers did not pass the Praxis I test between November 2009-July 2010. The Praxis I test is one of a series of American Teacher recertification exams written and administered by the Educational Testing Service, where reading, writing and math skills are tested.
 
Further, between November 2010 and July 2011, 78% of teachers did not pass the Praxis testing — showing a 4% increase in teachers who did not pass the Praxis testing.
 
According to the report, teacher quality and teacher training topped all issues that surfaced during the summit.
 
“A quality teacher is one who possesses content knowledge, teaching skills and a deep commitment to teaching,” the report states.
 
The report notes when DOE Director, Vaitinasa Salu Hunkin-Finau conducted a presentation before the Commission there were 1,103 teachers working for DOE, with a breakdown as follows: ECE-150, Elementary-528, High School-319 and SPED-106.
 
According to the Commission, the general feeling of the public and of the summit attendees was the present malaise in public education is caused by the absence of quality teachers and this was repeated in the answers to the questionnaire, which circulated during the summit.
 
“Of greater importance, there was a clear evidence that better pedagogy produces better students in mathematics,” was a statement the Commission believes valid when applied to the teaching of all subjects, with greater emphasis on content areas, and this sense of urgency coincides with the governor’s wish to increase the number of high school graduates, who can be admitted to regular college classes without first taking remedial courses.
 
There are three categories of certification in the DOE teacher certification system, which include four levels of “Professional” —including Bachelors with Praxis 1, Master’s Degrees; those who have passed Praxis 2; and Ed.D & Ph.D);  “Provisional” —with AA/AS, Bachelors and non-Education Masters degrees, but no Praxis; and “Temporary” — with less than AA degrees.
 
In 2011-2012 only 28% of DOE teachers had professional teacher certification, the report says, and it’s DOE’s goal that by 2016 only teachers with BA degrees can be hired to teach at the high school level.
 
The report also says DOE’s recruitment system is haphazard and unreliable and continues to build the number of trained teachers, with most of the college graduates not schooled in teaching. “This applies to many ASCC graduates not in the bachelor program.”
 
The commission points out, “Many only accept teaching jobs to await better opportunities elsewhere and college graduates are known to outright reject teaching posts claiming the pay is too small.”
 
The Education Summit report further states if there are not enough qualified teachers, DOE will hire people with only a high school diploma and maybe a year of community college studies.
 
It also indicates the Teaching Program DOE has with the University of Hawaii (UH)i, known as the American Samoa Cohort Program, has from 1983 to date — graduated a total of 702 teachers.
 
Currently, the report notes, DOE has negotiated with UH that in the future, DOE will select candidates to be screened by UH for admission into the program, and in addition to UH’s elementary eduction bachelor degree program, UH will also offer content area courses for teaching out of content area. Eventually the focus of the UH program will be on a BA degree program in secondary education, while the ASCC Bachelor of Education program will focus on elementary education.
 
The ASCC’s BE program, the report says, provides another route to acquisition of new teachers.
 
To further aid the problem of teacher shortages, the Commission suggests creating a Teacher Training Academy that will train teachers in subjects as Math, English and Dual language.
 
“Training received must relate to and compliment the teacher’s daily classroom work with particular attention to content area, skills and methodology and teacher attitude.”
 
The Commission proposes three training centers — Fagaitua, Utulei and Leone for a daily three-hour training program, and says qualified teacher trainers should be hired.
 
“This is a short-term move designed to meet the crisis, until such time when more ASCC graduates begin to enter the field,” the report states.



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