Marianas Variety Guam Edition – The Local and Regional Newspaper

12 23Fri04252014

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Back Letter to the Editor Strong foundation needed for Common Core Standards

Strong foundation needed for Common Core Standards

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I ATTENDED the most recent GEPB meeting held at a northern elementary school, which was also conveniently my place of employment. After several years of missed opportunity, I was glad to listen to and understand the obstacles facing our public school system firsthand. The small audience in attendance consisted of several administrators from various departments and schools, and less than a handful of teachers. There were no parents present to take part in public discussion or relay concerns. Certainly, given the fact that the meeting was held at the start of a typical education day, only a few stakeholders would have been expected to come.

The formal discussions between board members and GDOE leaders and contractors were primarily about modification of bell schedules, funding textbooks, financial management information systems, and a long list of miscellaneous matters. Of the subjects discussed, however, two areas of vital importance concerned me the most: the lack of student textbooks and the adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

First, I am dumbfounded as to why GDOE continues purchasing textbooks directly from mainland publishers without better plans for reducing the cost of printing and shipping. Although GDOE is years away from acquiring the necessary bandwidth, equipment and devices for implementing a totally “paperless” classroom, it must consider potential savings through other alternatives. I suggest obtaining digital rights to textbooks from mainland publishers, and then having them printed, bound, and then shipped into Guam from, say, the Philippines or Vietnam at a fraction of the present cost.

Second, with many administrators becoming engrossed in the potential opportunities CCSS brings for student achievement and teacher accountability, the foresight of a well-seasoned classroom teacher may be necessary. Although CCSS was adopted by the GEPB only a few days ago, a decade is required to fully realize its effects. I predict that GDOE will confront a common CCSS reality: Although goals and standards change overnight, the same kinds of inadequacies and students remain.

Presently, hundreds of ELLs (English Language Learners) continue to be misplaced within Special Education programs or retained for failing to meet older curriculum standards. This injustice will be magnified in the coming years as CCSS drills a wider and even deeper “category” of failure for students to fall into; and teachers will be less prepared to help them. As these professionals become chastised, degraded, and even fired for not meeting CCSS expectations, GDOE will also overspend in the hiring of Special Education teachers, ESL specialists, speech therapists, CRTs, and aides.

Lastly, this call for caution with CCSS’ implementation is based primarily on experience and a fact that cannot be ignored: GDOE has not invested enough in professional development, curriculum support, and financial accountability in order to implement higher standards of any kind. Much of this zeal is preceded by administrators needing credit for becoming “trendy,” borrowing ideas from mainland counterparts who supposedly live in the “real world.” Unfortunately, the same kind of enthusiasm has detracted our students from genuine learning opportunities for the past decade.

Each time GDOE enters district-wide reform mode, a certain Army building outside of Naval Station in Sumay is called to mind. In its preconstruction stage, the building’s plans were adopted from stateside engineers and were labored over in order to produce a beautiful building for local military personnel to utilize. A short time after its completion and occupancy, it was realized that the building’s foundation was inadequate for the swampy mangrove surrounding it. At capacity, it began to sink.

GDOE has become far too “gullible” and is unaware of the inadequate resources it has invested in its foundation as an institution of learning. One high-ranking GDOE administrator once retorted openly, “We must take on only what we can handle, and seek 'value-added' results over 'standards-added' plans." I enthusiastically agree.

Elwin Champaco Quitano,
Dededo

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