The short supply of highly qualified teachers and an alarming number of students exhibiting diabetes symptoms are among the biggest challenges facing the Commonwealth’s Public School System, according to the islands’ top education official.
In addition, PSS is concerned about the continuous lack of a universal preschool program, while the diversity of public school populations are having a direct impact on overall student performances, said Education Commissioner Dr. Rita A. Sablan.
In a presentation before members of the Saipan Rotary Club yesterday, Sablan admitted that PSS lack highly qualified teachers in both regular education and special education programs.
This school year, PSS has 565 teachers handling nearly 11,000 students from kindergarten to 12th grade on three islands. She said this number is not enough to accommodate the needs of all enrollees.
Under the federal mandate of the No Child Left Behind Act, PSS is required to have 100 percent highly qualified classrooms personnel by July 2011. To date, about 27 percent of public school teachers in the CNMI have yet to comply with the HQT standards. Among school administrators, 20 percent are still awaiting certifications to become highly qualified.
The Board of Education has set three requirements for teachers to be deemed highly qualified: a degree, valid teaching certificates, and passing two Praxis tests.
Sablan also disclosed that a high percentage of public school students have been found showing symptoms for diabetes, which she described as very ???alarming.???
???It alarms us because the CNMI has high percentage of diabetes per capita and we want to work with parents and our partners on how we can overcome this issue,??? Sablan told Saipan Tribune.
She also disclosed that a significant number of PSS students are classified as obese.
Because PSS is also home to 17 ethnicities, Sablan said the different cultures, origins, languages, and customs are proving to be barriers to effective learning.
???If you have different cultures and traditions.that’s where you can also find the challenges. It has impact on our student learning because some students don’t know how to read in the medium of instruction that we expect in the classroom,??? she said.
Sablan also lamented the lack of a universal preschool program on island. She said there are 200-plus 5-year-old children who are out of school because of the lack of resources.
???We have over 200 kids who need to go to school but can’t be accommodated.because we need more teachers and classrooms to do that,??? she said.
This school year, over 600 children are enrolled in kindergarten on three islands.
The PSS’ kindergarten program is currently offered in half-day sessions only due to a lack of teachers and facilities. The Education Board recently approved full-day kindergarten sessions after noting the increasing number of children on the waitlist every year. However, just to build the additional classrooms for this purpose would require some $3 million.
By Moneth Deposa