American Samoa Schools Making Progress; Room For Improvement

Education system report card to be made available online

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, June 16, 2016) – While there are signs of improvements in local public education over the last three years including the recent graduating class, Education Department officials emphasized that there is room for improvement and ASDOE will continue its quest to ensure American Samoa students are “college and career ready” upon graduation.
One  of the two main topics during last Friday’s monthly news conference hosted by Education director Vaitinasa Dr. Salu Hunkin-Finau was the announcement that the status of the local education system for 2013-2016 will be made available in October this year through a new report card.
“The community will have an idea of where education stands in the last three years, when the report card is released,” ASDOE assistant director of secondary education Dr. Samasoni Asaeli told reporters. He said it has been the goal of the director, since taking over the job in the beginning of 2013 to be “transparent” and for the department to maintain “transparency and accountability” to the public.
Asaeli recalled that during the 2013 Education Summit, the director spoke about the education system and that she believes in providing annual ASDOE report cards. And now, such reports are available online — — for public review, he said. (Samoa News notes that the report cards have been online since last month.)
These report cards online include the Territorial Report Cards from school year 2009/2010 to school year 2014-2015; individual School Report Cards for the same school years; and Territorial Progress Reports which provide results of surveys for students and teachers, as well as each individual school report card.
Asaeli said data from school year 2014-2015 will be used as the “base line” on school improvements, achievements and other issues starting with school year 2015-2016 heading into the future.
ASDOE’s overall goal, he said is to “prepare all students to be college and career ready, once they leave high school.”  He added that data collected by ASDOE through it’s Longitudinal Data System-Power School System makes it easy for the department’s leadership to asses areas which needs further improvement to ensure local students are college and career ready.
These activities are a part of ASDOE’s five-year Comprehensive School-based Improvement Plan (CSBIP), he noted.
The graduating rate for public high school seniors remains above 90% over the last four school years, according to data that ASDOE released early last month. (See Samoa News edition May 6th for details). Data for the 2015-2016 is expected to be released next month.
Asked during the news conference of what he thinks about the status of public education system in the last three years, Asaeli said that after all the high school graduations (for school year 2015- 2016) “I would say there’s been a big improvement from the last school year, in areas of accomplishments, what students have achieved in terms of scholarships.”
“For sure, there’s no question about it, we’ve made progress since the last three years.  We’re not there yet, but we are making progress in the right direction,” he said and stressed that “it’s important not to give up so easily — just stay the court, use the plan in place.”
Also important he said, is “connectivity... for all stakeholders working together for the benefit of our children. In the past, everyone does their own thing, and not working together to ensure students are educated.”
Stakeholders cited by Asaeli include parents and the community to get involved in student learning — and this is also included in the ASDOE-CSBIP.
Vaitinasa reminded reporters that Rome wasn’t built overnight. “We don’t expect any big miracle” right away, she said and noted that she has “seen more and more kids, are able to pass” the ASVAP military entrance test.
“We have a 60 student recruits that are ready to go for basic training, that have been sworn in, and that’s the largest number that I know of in recent years,” Vaitinasa said. “That was one of the biggest hurdle for the students — to pass the ASVAP test — so they can go into the reserve or go into active duty.”
“The other thing we’ve noticed is that many of our students are now accepted into off island universities and that hasn’t always been the case. The number has increased,” she said. For example, during last Friday’s Leone High School graduation there was a large number of graduates accepted into off island universities including military university.
“This is telling us that something is working in line for students to be able to select a career, to be able to select a school off island and also able to meet the requirements to get there,” she said.
“We want to ensure, the student who wants to go to work immediately [after graduation], has some basic skills and knowledge,” she said. “If the students wants to further their education, that they are able to do so, either by an off island university, or college or here at ASCC.”
“So we’re not saying that ‘this is perfect’. We’re saying ‘we’re seeing movements’ and our working relationship with ASCC is critical to this so that our students who want to go to the community college, there is connection. Its critical that our two institutions work closely side-by-side,” she said referring to ASCC and ASDOE.

The Samoa News
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