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More graduates, fewer dropouts, higher SATs

By Oyaol Ngirairikl HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Oct. 23, 2010) – Higher graduation rates, lower dropout rates, and improved standardized test scores; these were the successes highlighted at the State of Public Education Address yesterday.

"It is not about dramatic change or claims that we have reached the educational pinnacle, Superintendent Nerissa Bretania Underwood said. It is more than just adding together individual success stories. Instead, it is about steady, systemic positive change and the path towards sustaining that change with our commitment to excellence."

[PIR editor’s note: Nerissa Bretania Underwood is the Superintendent of the Guam Department of Education.]

Hundreds of teachers, parents, students and administrators filled the Southern High School cafeteria with applause at the superintendent's statement during the address last night.

Underwood started her speech noting several of the challenges Department of Education (DOE) experienced in the past year, including the shutdown of 33 schools in the 2009-2010 school year, the federal requirement to hire a third-party fiduciary agent to oversee federal funds and the subsequent withholding of more than US$24 million.

She said despite those challenges, teachers, school aides, administrators and support staff have worked to help students succeed.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we have made real progress. Next year may be better and frankly we could fall also back from the progress. But the only way we can move forward is to have sustainable progress, she said. This progress must be based on a children focused school system that is accountable for its finances and performance, a school system that makes continual professional improvement the basis for student achievement and a system that receives regular, predictable and, yes, sustainable resources."

Students Pedro Tudela and Anjelo Kusterbeck said while they didn't quite understand everything the superintendent was talking about, they believe they are learning and getting the education they need to go to college and enter the work force.

Tudela, a senior, said he remembers times when schools were shut down because of water shortages or other problems, but he has seen many improvements within the school and particularly appreciates the help he's getting at the school.

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