Standardized tests are just a small indicator of what our students are actually learning. In spite of the “low” scores, our teachers actually do a fantastic job for their students under very challenging conditions. We cannot compare Guam’s students to the U.S. average because our demographics have statistically significant effects on our students’ test scores, the largest being our students’ socioeconomic status. Here are some ways that we can improve the quality of our children’s education:
YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR: Guam spends less than half the national average per student. This has to change if we are ever going to move forward.
IF IT AIN’T BROKE, DON’T FIX IT: The first and foremost thing that we are doing right at DOE is keeping class sizes manageable, as a result of the teachers’ union contract. Student-to-teacher ratio is one of the greatest factors affecting the quality of education that our children receive.
YOU CAN’T BUILD A HOUSE WITHOUT THE RIGHT TOOLS: Teachers need the resources to effectively teach. Even though every teacher spends thousands of their own dollars, it still isn’t enough and begging for donations and grants is patchwork, at best.
YOU’RE MY FAVORITE TEACHER: Quality education begins and ends with quality teachers. With the lowest salaries, worst health insurance and retirement (these are not negotiable), we don’t retain or attract our finest and brightest.
THE WEAKEST LINK: It takes a team to support quality teaching. We need enough aides to ensure our students are safe. We need an effective evaluation/management system for school administrators. Currently, there is only crisis management. We need a fully staffed information technology team to ensure that all of our investments in technology stay up and running. Currently, there are only three people for the thousands of computers in the system. We need quality substitutes so that learning can continue when their regular teachers are absent.
VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE: Children who have art, music and physical education, taught by specialists, score higher in reading and math. Our students need to be able to experience a vast variety of educational opportunities, because you never know what will change their lives.
ROME WAS BUILT ONE BRICK AT A TIME: There is no magic, free and instant fix. DOE has a lot of amazing teachers who know what works. We need to systematically build on what works, have meaningful professional development and make sure that individual great works become systems for every child. Lastly, we need to be constantly evaluating what needs improvement, what doesn’t work and what needs to be left alone. It’s a slow, rigorous, and yes, costly process, but it must be done if we are really going to have an effective educational system.