Education Corner 22 - SEP 2016 - Summary

Quick Summary
A year ago (August 2015), we began this Education Corner (EC) to report and explain some ways the Community could help the Pohnpei Department of Education (PDOE) improve our schools and our students’ learning. EC began by trying to explain the FSM National Department of Education (NDOE) Accreditation System whereby every school, public or private; elementary and high schools are visited and inspected by outside teams. NDOE Accreditation has certain standards with which the NDOE teams measure and rate our schools. These teams look at the physical conditions of the school buildings; check that students all have books; see if students are attending school regularly; look at student achievement scores; and carefully check the official records kept by the school’s principal as well as records at the PDOE Central Office. EC mentioned the importance of getting our children to school each day and on time. All of us-the Community- can help here being sure to remember it’s clock time not Pohnpeian time. The importance of student attendance cannot be over stressed as you will see. It could mean more money for your school or it may mean less money for you school.

Next the EC attempted to explain the School Improvement Plan called the SIP. After accreditation each school must prepare a SIP. No SIP can be approved without community input. This is a must. Community members with high school and college degrees are welcome. Even more welcome are the parents that did not finish school for whatever reasons. If the Community wants community schools controlled by the Community-the SIP is the place for everyone. The SIP must show how anything not found to be “exceptional” will be improved and very specifically how the school will do that. Even “exceptional” schools must write out specific plans on just how the school will continue to be “exceptional”. The school principal must lead the SIP as that plan will direct the school’s activities for the next school year (SY). If students are not coming regularly to school, the SIP must show how the school will improve the attendance rate. Then the attendance data leads us to graduation rates, dropout rates and the number and gender of the students involved. If buildings need repair, the SIP must spell out when and how they will be repaired. In fact, for building, the principal and the school must write individual School Maintenance Plans. The SIP is the single most important document in the educational Community.
Furthermore EC wrote about the Joint Economic Management Committee or JEMCO. While the JEMCO is interested in improving FSM and Pohnpei education, they are concerned that U S tax money is spent in an efficient and effective manner. Presently, and until 2023, almost all funding for education comes from the U S. What gets our attention is that JEMCO may withhold funding whenever we are not improving, or when JEMCO feels that U S taxes are not spent wisely.
JEMCO requires the FSM Accreditation Standards to be met and JEMCO also has 21 Performance Indicators. “Performance indicator” refers to the means by which an objective can be judged to have been achieved or not achieved. Indicators are therefore tied to FSM/PDOE goals and objectives and serve simply as ‘yardsticks’ by which to measure the degree of success in goal achievement. Performance indicators are reported with mathematics and not words. They speak about passing rates and graduation rates and student passing rates on FSM standardized tests. These Indicators are JEMCO’s tools and they are measured by rates and percentages.
The SIP must take into account both the FSM Accreditation and JEMCO Performance Indicators. If a school’s graduation rate was 82% the SIP must state with numbers just how much will be improved for next SY. Should the school go for 83% next year or 84%? The SIP reads pages and pages of data and specific plans in order to improve the numbers. Hundreds of man hours are used studying the schools’ data along with the recommendations from FSM Accreditation, trying to judge just how much improvement can be made and what it will require to reach that next level.
Finally, most of the EC columns have been about our Pohnpei teachers as professionals. Specifically, teachers tested themselves to discover weak areas in the sciences and social studies. In some cases weaknesses pop up because the teacher has not kept current with new findings. In other cases a teacher may not have had sufficient training in a subject.
As in all professions, the PDOE elementary teacher needs, and has asked for, on-going teacher training.
Finally readers, EC did the above summary so that we can change our format. While FSM Accreditation, SIPs and JEMCO are important, a year is quite enough. For the upcoming editions EC will use some stories for our readers. In teacher education we refer to these stories as “Case Studies”. Case Studies are real life teaching/learning situations meant for critical thinking. The Case Studies will feature a beginning teacher named Navarro Navarro as he struggles to learn his new profession. Sometimes he makes mistakes, but upon realizing mistakes he corrects them. Navarro is far from perfect and he knows it. But you will find Navarro loves his students and is always trying to improve.
We hope you will like the new approach.
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