Education Corner 17

05 MAY 2016 - In the last Education Corner I finished with a comment about Directors of Education; Health and Public Safety being political appointments and the position is “up in the air” each time there is a change in Governors. This is a very touchy question for professional educators-What role should elected officials have in the public education process? What do elected officials know about school accreditation? After all FSM Accreditation is about teacher certification; student learning outcomes; standards/benchmarks; school improvement plans, teacher contracts and the host of other topics we have looked at in the EC these past months Unfortunately for many elected officials who come from other employment backgrounds-not a great deal is known about such. But it is important that they learn quickly and they do. They must—it has to do with money available of education now and as we move to Compact termination in 2023. It has to do with watching the tax dollars and presently these are tax dollars of U S citizens. So for now our legislators watch U S taxpayer dollars as part of their jobs and try to assure they are spent wisely. In fact they know that if there is not improvement in these education areas there will be less money. Presently there are more areas in need of improvement than available resources so improving and not losing resources is the task at hand.

Examples of areas for improvement are outlined in two reports released this past week by the U S Peace Corps. These are accreditation reports and analyze the six standards for FSM Accreditation 1) Leadership 2) Teacher Performance 3) Data Management 4) National and State Curriculum Mandates 5) Campus and Facilities Improvement and 6) School Improvement Plans. The first was a general report 11 Recommendations to Improve Our Schools (Donna Thompson and Richard Clark). A second a far more specific report Recommendations for FSM Accreditation-A Report by Response Volunteers on Pohnpei for Improving our Schools and State and National DOE Programming (Dr. Neen Hunt and Ms. Natalie Linton). The latter report is more detailed, has 11 recommendations for Pohnpei State within each many detailed specifics. The Hunt/Linton summation recommends a simplification for all of the accreditation process to overcome much of the confusion these past several years. It notes budget problems and requirement as fencing and maintenance which may be the same for a school of 200 or 600. Remember budgets rely on school size and school attendance. $30,000 expenditure for a school is just not the same. This report sets a clear path for Pohnpei’s improvement but there are difficulties. To improve in five (5) of the 11 suggested areas requires funding and funding outside the present Education Sector monies. Put simply it is a bit tricky. It will require some different sources of funding to improve enough to receive the usual expected education allocations. This will prove to be a challenge but we need to find a way.
The logical way to proceed with the Education Corner would be to take one or two recommendation per KPress edition and explain them in understandable language. Better would be to take recommendations and see which should be put first (prioritized) and best yet would be to see if Pohnpei could improve in all the areas noted by the Peace Corps Response Volunteers. Recall these PCRV are teams of highly experienced professionals in the accreditation field and usually volunteer 30 or more years of experience. The United States as the primary FSM Education funder accepts and values this kind of expertise.
Next edition we should take on one of my pet projects and that is the necessary curriculum materials to accommodate the standards to be taught. Both PCRV reports were quite plain—there are few student textbooks to match the required standards—and there should be. I reported the same in the Data for Decision Making (DDP) in the sciences and the social studies. Certainly at present there are no ways to provide adequate science materials to students with the FSM Science Standards configured as they are. Science as suggested in the FSM Science Standards had not been taught successfully in the past, is not being taught successfully at present and will not likely be taught successfully in the future. It is difficult for Pohnpei to go against something as the accepted FSM Science Standards. But we do recall Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Sometimes a State must stand up and say—you should look again at doing science in this manner. Next issue we will speak to those curriculum materials matters and reemphasize the need for reading-writing-listening and speaking all the time—every day and in every class. The PCRV reports tells us that teachers are not giving instruction in English as is required and some teachers in the upper elementary grades are giving instruction in the vernacular. Teachers must carry on in the English language and they do not help students by constantly relying on vernacular. That only helps in keeping reading and writing scores low

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