Guam: Chamorro language required 30 minutes daily

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Fri Sep 15 12:27:17 UTC 2006

Teachers feel grades dishonest
Grades being given without lessons taught

By Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno
Pacific Daily News
gdumat-ol at

Guam's public elementary school teachers graded students with A's, B's and
C's in science and social studies last school year -- and two years before
that -- without having the time to teach those and other subjects besides
reading, math and language arts. And most of the Guam Public School
System's elementary principals have recently voiced to Superintendent Luis
S.N. Reyes that teachers are not comfortable giving grades for subjects
that were not taught adequately, a Sept. 6 memo from Reyes to the
principals stated. Some teachers feel that giving grades without teaching
adequately in those subjects is dishonest, Reyes said in a recent
interview. "They say it is making teachers look like liars," said the
school system superintendent.

The issue is boiling at a time when the school system has new leadership
in Reyes, who was selected by the Guam Education Policy Board Monday night
to hold the position permanently. In response to the educators' concerns,
Reyes said yesterday he told them:  "Let's face the truth."  "I don't want
any teacher to feel very uncomfortable assigning grades they haven't
adequately taught," he said.

Program review

In response to the concerns, Reyes said, one of his priorities as the new
school system superintendent will be to push for a review of the federally
funded Direct Instruction program for reading, math and language arts. The
review will focus on whether the program will be what's in the best
interest of the island's schoolchildren in the long run, Reyes said. The
hours needed for Direct Instruction -- four and a half out of five
instructional hours in every public elementary student's day in school --
leave little time to teach other subjects. Chamorro language, too, is
required under Guam law, for about 20 to 30 minutes a school day,
depending on the elementary grade level.

With Direct Instruction and Chamorro language combined, there's no time
left to assign specific time slots for teaching other subjects besides the
basic three. Still, grades have been given for social studies, science,
health, visual arts, performing arts and physical education, some
elementary report cards show. "In a recent principals' meeting, a majority
of the school principals have expressed concerns in the awarding of grades
to subject areas not adequately taught, as prescribed in (Guam Education
Policy Board) Policy 436, due to the allocated time for Direct Instruction
of ... four and a half hours per day," Reyes' Sept. 6 memo states. Rose
Rios, the Direct Instruction program's administrator, said while such
subjects as science and social studies are not being taught in specific
time slots, there are some areas in the Direct Instruction program that
make students learn about the very same topics.

For example, in Direct Instruction reading, students will read a story
about planets, Rios said. The school system has bought social studies and
science books, but a lot of the system's students have not been reading at
their grade level so they're being given a "double dosage" of reading,
Rios said.

Extending the school day

Rather than focusing on the Direct Instruction program as the reason for
the lack of time for non-core subjects, Rios suggested extending the
amount of instructional time for Guam public school students. In the
states, students have about six hours a day of instructional time, Rios
said. George G. Salas, a school system employee and grandparent to three
elementary schoolchildren, said he's all for keeping Direct Instruction,
or DI, in Guam public schools. "DI is good," Salas said. Because of the
program, he said, his 8-year-old grandson, a third-grader at Juan M.
Guerrero Elementary, now loves to read.

His other grandchildren, Salas said, "have improved in DI." "They say it's
not good for everybody, ... but to me it works," Salas said. He said
today's learning environment in Guam public schools is a contrast to the
Guam generations of adults "who try to read, but have a hard time

Two more years

The school system has signed up to carry out the program for six years,
with two more years of Direct Instruction to come. The program is paid for
with about $10 million a year in federal funding, Rios said. The federal
government has also tied the release of other federal funds for island
public schools to the adherence to the Direct Instruction program. This
fiscal year, starting Oct. 1, the school system expects to receive $37.5
million in federal funding. When the education board tried to cancel the
afternoon session of DI, the federal government warned about the potential
loss of Uncle Sam dollars for Guam public schools. Reyes also wrote in his
Sept. 6 memo to elementary principals about "the possibility of losing
$37.5 million" if federal conditions to the money for the Direct
Instruction program and other federal financial assistance are not met.

But at the same time, if the review of Direct Instruction will show that
island schoolchildren are not benefiting from it, Reyes said the school
system can show the review's result to U.S. Department of Education
decision-makers. U.S. DOE holds the purse strings when it comes to federal
money for Guam public schools. Reyes said he would like the review done by
an independent third party. He said he will make it a priority to put
together a group that will design a Request for Proposals for the
independent evaluation of the DI program's impact to island
schoolchildren. Sen. Larry Kasperbauer, R-Dededo, exiting chairman of the
Legislature's education committee, said Guam's dilemma concerning the lack
of instructional time for subjects such as science and social studies
mirrors what's going on elsewhere in the United States. Kasperbauer said
he would like to see how Guam's schoolchildren scored in last year's
nationally standardized tests to gauge whether the DI program is an
overall benefit to the island.



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