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ASDOE 100-day report: Students not getting the education they deserve

The Department of Education is initiating a comprehensive five-year plan to improve teacher quality and student learning in all public schools in the territory, says ASDOE director Dr. Salu Hunkin-Finau in her first 100 days report to the Governor’s Office.


Issues covered in the report include the new administration’s Policy and Management (which were reported in yesterday’s Samoa News edition) and today’s report covers Instruction matters, dealing with student performance and the need for more qualified teachers.




Under the subheading STRATEGIC SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT PLAN, the director said that as seen by years of poor scores on standardized tests the public education system has not met the vision and mission of ASDOE, and has not provided students with the education they deserve.


Hunkin-Finau provided a summary of test scores for the SAT-10 standardized tests administered from 2008-2012 for reading and mathematics.


The summary states that for the past four years, almost 80% of students performed below the basic levels of achievement on standardized tests. Of the remaining students, less than 20% scored in the basic achievement category, and less than 10% scored at proficient or above.


“One reason for the poor performance is the quality of teachers in the system,” Hunkin-Finau explained. “Because we do not have a fully qualified pool of applicants from which to select teachers, we must rely on available personnel from American Samoa. As a result, we often hire teachers who do not have qualifications.”


Through the American Samoa Community College and University of Hawai’i cohort programs, “teachers will develop quality teaching skills over time, but even with these degree programs, many teachers do not have the content knowledge needed to be effective in the classroom,” she said.


Given the poor student scores on the SAT10 and the fact that over 50% of the teaching force does not meet the minimum requirements for teaching, ASDOE is initiating a comprehensive 5-year Strategic School Improvement Plan to improve the quality of education our students receive, she said.


She added, the mission of the plan will be to provide strategies to meet these goals:


•            To provide a fully qualified teacher in every classroom through the development of appropriate degree programs and professional development.


•            To ensure quality teaching and quality learning outcomes though the use of student data and performance-driven evaluations.


•            To retain highly qualified teachers in the classroom, and encourage Samoans to enter the teaching profession through teacher salary reclassification and incentive programs.


•            To provide globally competitive, 21st Century education through the use of the Common Core Curriculum Standards, and other College and Career ready curriculum that is culturally appropriate for our unique student population.


•            To improve school facilities to provide safe, clean places that encourage learning.


Hunkin-Finau said Eight Planning Committees, of nearly 100 representatives from ASDOE, ASCC, parents, the community and business leaders, are drafting strategies to meet these goals.


“Specific recommendations will address teacher development and certification, providing a rigorous curriculum aligned to Global Standards, evaluation of school principals and educational leadership, along with new directions for student assessments, parent involvement and the use of technology,” she explained.


She went on to note that the USDOE has endorsed the Common Core Curriculum standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics.


To date, 47 states and all territories have adopted these standards, which will be added “to our locally developed standards, to provide compatible and rigorous education expectations. Standards for Science and Social Studies are currently being developed,” she pointed out.


According to the director, during the Professional Development Days, April 24—26, 2013, all teachers received training on the Common Core, including over 40 teachers from Manu’a, but this will not be the only training they will conduct.


“In fact, implementation will be a purposefully slow process, so that we can ensure the proper application and training that is culturally appropriate and applicable for both students and staff,” she stressed.


The director also stated that efforts are in progress to work closely with ASCC to develop a strong K-6 teacher education program that not only stresses pedagogy, but also provides a strong platform of content area knowledge.


Under the subheading, of the UH Cohort program, Hunkin-Finau said this program has produced over 400 classroom teachers since its establishment and they have agreed to revise a program for grades 7-12 teachers that will have a strong emphasis on content knowledge, while providing culturally responsive educational methodologies needed for effective teaching.


Each year approximately 25 teachers enter the Cohort Program and there are currently 110 students in four Cohorts providing course work towards their bachelor degree.


“The desired outcome is to provide every classroom with a fully qualified teacher,” she said, adding that “ASDOE’s aim is to hire and maintain only fully qualified teachers with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree by the 2016-2017 School Year.”


Under the subheading, Parent Teacher Associations, the director says that in the last 100 days, she and the Division of Community Services have met with all PTAs to strengthen ties between ASDOE leadership and parents.


“We have encouraged Parent Centers on school campuses where space is available to promote closer working relationships between parents and schools,” she said. “We will select a council of PTA presidents as an ad-hoc council to provide recommendations from the parents’ perspective.”


Final subjects covered in the ASDOE report will be in tomorrow’s edition of Samoa News.