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Assistance Secretary looks at school systems in Pacific

By Brett Kelman HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Dec. 2, 2009) - U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education Peter Cunningham will meet Guam's education leaders and tour local campuses today and tomorrow during his fact-finding mission to school systems throughout the Pacific.

Cunningham's "Listening and Learning Tour" will take him to Hawaii, American Samoa and Guam so he can study school systems in preparation for the reauthorization next year of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, according to the Associated Press.

He was scheduled to arrive on Guam last night and start his tour at Agana Heights Elementary this morning.

According to a tentative itinerary, Cunningham will also visit George Washington High School, Southern High School, Tamuning Elementary, Machananao Elementary, Guam Community College and the University of Guam.

Yesterday, Guam Department of Education Superintendent Nerissa Bretania Underwood said Cunningham asked to see some successful schools and some schools with major challenges.

"The potential this will do for Guam is that he will have firsthand observation of how we implement the programs that are federally funded," Underwood said. "He will also have a chance to see our cultural characteristics and the challenges we encounter as well as the successes."

For example: About 40 percent of DOE's students are "English-language learners," which is unusual for most U.S. school systems.

Also, the local school system must account for many students who immigrate from outer islands and have much less schooling than other students of the same age.

Underwood said she hopes Cunningham will bring an update on when Guam's education stimulus funding will arrive.

Cunningham is a top aide to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, the former superintendent of the Chicago public school system. In Chicago, Cunningham was the leader of a communications firm that worked with Duncan. When President Obama appointed Duncan, Cunningham followed.

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