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By Susan Roth Gannett News Service

WASHINGTON, D. C. (March 3, 2001 – Pacific Daily News)---Gov. Carl Gutierrez has proposed a new federally financed tutoring program for Guam and three other U.S. territories to help boost students’ low test scores.

While President Bush's sweeping education reform proposal would provide additional federal money for education programs, it also would require annual testing of all students in grades three to eight.

Schools that fail to improve test scores after three years could lose federal funding.

Recognizing that Guam's students are not performing at acceptable levels, Gutierrez said Wednesday that he wants to take action now rather than face sanctions later.

''The idea is to be proactive,'' said Gutierrez, who was in Washington to attend the National Governors' Association's annual winter meeting.

''With our problems with achievement levels in the territories, we need extra help. Why wait five years for sanctions to hit?'' he added.

The Math, English and Reading Instruction and Tutoring program would pair paid tutors with students in American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam.

Gutierrez is seeking $20 million for the program starting in fiscal year 2002.

Guam and the Virgin Islands would get $6 million each while American Samoa and the Mariana Islands would receive $4 million each.

Leaders of each of the other three territories approved the idea and signed a letter outlining the proposal.

Gutierrez sent the letter to U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige on Tuesday.

''We face daunting challenges due to the large number of bilingual students, multicultural communities, new immigrants and limited local resources,'' the letter says. ''We want to give our public schools the necessary resources to succeed.''

Gutierrez estimated that every $1 million would pay for 400 tutors, who would be assigned to one, two or three students.

Some of the money also would pay for materials, operational costs and administrative fees.

The tutors -- college students, retirees, military personnel or high school students -- would work after school for an hour a day from Monday to Thursday. They would also work four hours on Saturdays.

Children in elementary and middle school do not need certified teachers as tutors, Gutierrez said.

He said parents and tutors would have a greater commitment to the program because the tutors would be paid.

Gutierrez believes intensive tutoring at an early age is the best way to stem learning problems.

For additional reports from the Pacific Daily News, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Pacific Daily News (Guam).  

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