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Governor calls graduate teachers “tremendous return in investment”

Last Saturday marked another University of Hawaii College of Education cohort graduation in the territory, and the governor described graduation day as “a  tremendous return in investment” by the government, telling teachers that these are investment funds the government received from tax payers and other funding sources, which have been “redistributed back, so that you could be educated.”

“Today the return on our investment has multiplied 27 times,” said Togiola referring to the number of graduates, who received both Bachelor of Arts and Masters degrees in education during the ceremony, which took place at the Fale Laumei in Utulei.

Gov. Togiola Tulafono also made a public commitment to teachers that his administration will provide for them in the next school year “iPads 2”, which can be used to report student’s performance grades directly from their classrooms.

The governor’s statement, made at last Saturday’s University of Hawai’i College of Education cohort graduation, followed remarks by Education Department director-designee Dr. Jacinta Galeai, where she pointed out that the Longitudinal Data System (LDS) is now being implemented which allows teachers to input student grades directly from the classroom.

(As previously reported by Samoa News, the LDS is required by the U.S. Department of Education under ASDOE Consolidated Grant Funding. The LDS will allow DOE to “collect better and more accurate data” and allow DOE to decide what kind of data DOE needs “to improve tracking and evaluation of student achievement, teacher and school performance).

In his graduation address, Togiola acknowledged the LDS as cited by Galeai, but said the question is — how can that be done “when you don’t have laptops” in the classroom?

“My commitment to you teachers is that by the start of the new school year, 2012/ 2013, you’re all going to have iPads 2 you can use as a tool for education… so that you can report those grades directly” from classrooms instead of having to go through the internet, he said to applause from the crowd.

Togiola says this tool is very important in the advancement of the territory towards modern technology, which will enhance the teacher’s work.

“And I congratulate you for all your efforts and for looking to improve your own skills as teachers, because in better teachers we will find better students. In better students, we will find a better country, better families, [and] better churches everywhere,” he said and acknowledged the local partnership with the University of Hawaii, now in its 24th graduation cohort, for “training our teachers, who are now committed to be the captains of the future to direct the future of our young generation... and it’s a partnership that has reached... all corners of our island, because of the importance of the work that they do.”

Togiola reiterated his previous statement that “we are looking at granting scholarships for online education, so that we can sanction certain online colleges... so you don’t have to leave the territory in order to improve your skills or even get your doctorate degrees.”

In her special remarks, Galeai congratulated the teachers, saying that “your theme captures the core of your role — ‘captains of the future’. That is our student’s future and most importantly American Samoa’s future.”

Galeai reminded the graduates that “the true and most important measure, of your effectiveness is student performance.”

“Are those 3rd graders in your class reading and writing at grade level? Are they engaged? Are they curious about the world around them? Do they appear genuinely happy in the classroom?” she asked. “I know the realities of teaching in the classroom gets in the way and we often forget that. But because so much of student performance rests on our work, we cannot forget what our mission is in this department.”

She recalled what the governor has continued to say, not only to DOE but the entire  community — “the strength of a country is dependent on how well our students do in the classroom… That is our call and we look to you to carry that forward.”