Education reform underway over summer
by Krystal Paco
Guam - According to Educational Learning Task Force chair Vince Leon Guerrero, these summer months are ideal to get the ball rolling with education reform. Over 3,000 of the island's 18- to 22-year-olds are on welfare, a strong indicator that the current public school system is flawed.
In Governor Eddie Calvo's recent address on education reform, he stated that the island's students aren't learning as a result of poor accountability, an unclear curriculum, and a vague vision from the department. But according to Leon Guerrero, education reform is in the works. Bill 437, which awaits the governor's signature, addresses funding for renovations to Untalan Middle School in Barrigada, financing for other school renovations and repairs and funding for collateral equipment and school busses. In addition, the Guam Education Board recently adopted the Common Core standards based off the best performing schools in the nation and their curriculum, which Leon Guerrero says should result in higher, more uniformed standards for Guam.
"It doesn't matter what state you go to you're going to be finding the same type of instruction happening across the nation. The fact that Guam adopted the common core state standards allows us to be able to piggyback on all the national initiatives and all the federal dollars that will be coming out in support of the Common Core," he said.
Leon Guerrero says the most controversial of the recommendations from the reform team has been talks on the Chamorro language overhaul. "The concept of an overhaul is that you're not taking an engine and throwing it away you're taking an engine that's not giving you the miles per gallon; it's not functioning effectively or efficiently it's burning a lot of gas it's not giving the performance that you expect," he added. "I want to set the record straight - this administration believes in the goals and objectives of the Chamorro language program. What we're saying is that we're not achieving ideal results and if we're not achieving those results, it's only fair that we openly and honestly have some critical discussions about what's working and what's not working."
The reform team recognizes that the student population is mixed more than ever, contributing to why fewer students are able to speak the island's native tongue. The reform team recommends that instead of teaching a little Chamorro to all students, concentrate efforts through immersion schools, like those in Hawaii or after-school immersion programs like those throughout Asia.
"We all know that if we're talking about perpetuating this language it cannot just be a lesson in school. It has to be driven intrinsically it has to be driven from your family at home, practiced in the home in the workplace in the recreation area and practiced everywhere in business, and only then do we have a fair shot at increasing the number of Chamorro speakers."
The reform team also recommends stronger enforcement on policies on student to teacher ratios and the need to put the best and brightest teachers in kindergarten, first, second, and third grade classrooms because these grades leave lasting impressions on students.
In addition, the reform team recommends increased parent participation, more support for professional development, and increasing teacher pay.