Pacific Daily News

HAGATNA, Guam (Sept. 21) - There is no doubt that our public school system fails to provide an adequate education to our island's schoolchildren -- they regularly score near the bottom on national standardized tests, and Department of Education officials have admitted that the vast majority of high school graduates have little to no mastery in the basic skills of reading and math.

We've listened for years to promises of change and improvement, but have gone nowhere, save downward. There's no silver bullet fix for the sad state of our island's schools, but there are some basic things that can be done to start turning things around in the right direction.

Leadership/Positive Attitude

Some of our public schools have shown that even with the same level of funding, poor facilities and conditions as other schools, students aren't doomed for failure. Some administrators and teachers have taken it upon themselves to do what they could to improve test scores. For example, this year Untalan Middle School, and Astumbo and F.Q. Sanchez elementary schools, showed marked improvement in their SAT-9 results.

True leaders can make a difference if they lead by example, raise the bar and work together with their team to reach goals. We need to ensure that everyone is involved in public education. Principals, the superintendent and associate superintendents, and the school board need to exhibit real hands-on leadership and a "just do it" attitude.


Putting people in any position of authority is meaningless without holding them to standards. If a teacher, principal, central office administrator or board member can't get the job done, they must be removed. We can't be afraid to fire ineffective education officials. The future of our children is at stake.

Furthermore, the public school system can no longer afford to continue social promotion. If a student can't achieve the minimum standards for moving on to the next grade, he or she must not be advanced, because it only enables future failure.

Passing these students doesn't help anyone -- they aren't capable of handling the next level of academics, and teachers have to spend more time with them, to the detriment of other students. And if they are continually promoted, you end up with graduates lacking the basic skills required to perform in the real world, which is what school is supposed to prepare them to do.

If we focus on these three areas, we can begin to effectuate real and positive change in the public school system, and move toward our duty and responsibility to the children to provide them with the education they deserve and can use.

September 22, 2003

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