Governor’s Education Summit Concludes In Am. Samoa

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Governor’s Education Summit Concludes In Am. Samoa College prep, Samoan language initiatives discussed

By Joyetter Feagaimaalii-Luamanu

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Oct. 28, 2013) – Parent and community involvement, teacher quality, and a Samoan language program are among the resolutions that have come about following the Governor’s three-day Education Summit in American Samoa.

Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga initiated the summit with his belief the event would bring education and community stakeholders together to address alarming statistics of the territory’s students performing below the national average.

The summit addressed a lot of issues, including panel discussions on student assessments, Samoan language, teachers (their salaries and participation), how to better education, and parent and community involvement in school and their child’s education life. Issues such as the importance of parents participating in the Parent-Teachers Association (PTA) and parents who leave their children home while they attend bingo games were also highlights of the summit.

On Thursday, the final day of the summit, Department of Education (DOE) Director Vaitinasa Dr. Salu Hunkin-Finau acknowledged the presence of Samoa's Head of State, His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese for his participation in the proceedings and for his scholarly words of wisdom offered during the conference. She also recognized Governor Lolo for his initiative in calling this territorial conference.

Resolutions

Vaitinasa stated DOE and American Samoa Community College (ASCC) will work jointly to develop a college-bound prep program to increase the number of high school graduates (who meet beginning college course prerequisites) entering college, thereby decreasing the number of students having to take remedial classes.

The director, among other things, is requesting "that local funding be earmarked for DOE to invest in the development of a technology program, integrating its use in teaching children; and that a technology-integration program for classroom teachers be developed focusing on the use of new and advanced equipment to increase student learning in all content areas K-12." In addition, she is also calling for locally developed assessment programs to monitor student achievement K-12 in English, Math and Samoan Studies.

Vaitinasa also wants the ‘language of instruction’ law to be amended to state that Samoan and English languages be used in the public schools in the territory. Additionally, that a dual language program be designed and implemented to provide greater accessibility of content area knowledge and skills for children K-12; that an aligned teacher training program be developed and implemented in concert with the local core content area standards, and an appropriate assessment of student learning and teacher performance be developed of the said program.

Furthermore, "that funding be identified to locally produce and publish quality learning resources (thematic readers and math books) in the Samoan language, which are aligned with the local core content standards; and that valid, reliable assessment tools be identified and/or developed to test student achievement and teacher performance in the implementation of the dual language program from K-12."

Samoan language program

Vaitinasa said the Samoan studies program will be required for all students K-12 each year, to include culture, language, history, government, mythology, natural and physical sciences, social sciences, and arts and humanities; and that literacy skills in the Samoan language be re-emphasized at all grade levels.

Further, aligned local assessment instruments are to be developed for the Samoan Studies standards, and graduation requirements of Samoan studies are to be increased for all high school students.

She noted the DOE, ASCC and the Office of Samoan Affairs is to review the existing laws related to the establishment of a Samoan Language Commission; in particular, its function in the preservation, teaching and use of the Samoan language in the Territory.

Teacher quality

The DOE Director said a more culturally and linguistically responsive teacher training program for the public schools should be re-emphasized in the existing college and university teacher education program for DOE.

The said training program would develop entry and exit requirements for a quality teaching force, with emphasis regarding teacher content area knowledge and skills, in alignment with the existing standards. Vaitinasa said a high standard for Samoan and English language proficiency skills should be a pre-requisite for hiring all teachers.

By 2016, hiring policies and procedures are to be developed to expedite the employment of teachers possessing the required minimum credentials, Samoan and English proficiency, and teaching certificate.

Parent and community involvement

According to Vaitinasa, the parental involvement programs directly aligned with the required student academic performance will be developed and supported with sufficient financial resources, and that an affective assessment of the Parent and Community Involvement (PCI) program be developed and implemented, in addition to constituting a Territorial Parent Advisory Board to provide parent and community perspectives to DOE and its functions.

She pointed out that the government is considering DOE organizing and developing Parents as Teachers Substitute Program (PTSP) to meet the demand for a substitute system for DOE and to provide community input in existing educational programs.

Governance

Vaitinasa pointed out that legislation is to be introduced for a Board of Education to be elected by School PTA members representing school district areas, whose function shall be to provide governing policies and procedures for public education, and also to monitor and provide periodical reports to the Governor and the Fono.

They would also establish rules and regulations under the general public educational policy, consistent with existing laws, and they will have the authority to recruit, evaluate, and/or hire the Director of Education and assist with identifying and monitoring funding sources for the department.

Lastly, she said, the government will consider identifying and including in DOE's annual budget a new local tax earmarked for education programs for public school children.

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