<!–Saxotech Paragraph Count: 18
Teacher accountability and training were among the topics discussed by the School and Education System-wide Reform Action Team yesterday at Adelup.
The work session was part of Gov. Eddie Calvo’s larger initiative, spearheaded by an education task force, to reform Guam Department of Education schools.
Carol Somerfleck, a teacher at Agana Heights Elementary School, was the only teacher at the session, which primarily involved administrators and principals. Teacher voices matter in these discussions, she said, because, “I’m in the trenches.”
Carol Somerfleck’s perspective proved valuable — there were clear fault lines between teachers and administrators on some issues.
When talk turned to accountability and linking teacher evaluations to student performance — a controversial topic — Carol Somerfleck defended hard-working teachers at schools or classrooms with disadvantaged students.
These students may not meet certain standards for a variety of reasons, not just a teacher’s effort, she argued.
She did acknowledge the problem of underperforming teachers. There is an “internal frustration” among educators about those teachers, Carol Somerfleck said.
“How do you mandate that (unproductive teachers) respect the profession the way Carol does, and the way the majority of teachers do?” asked Troy Torres, the governor’s spokesman and leader of the reform action team.
Daniel Somerfleck, Carol Somerfleck’s husband, suggested a solution that mirrors the business world.
“You provide them training, you build up their skill levels. … If they’re unable to achieve the level that you’re looking for, then you move them out,” he said.
Barry Mead, a member of the Guam Education Board, said teachers aren’t getting the training they need, and part of that ties into teacher education at the University of Guam.
When the group moved on to talk about identifying students with learning disabilities, Benavente Middle School principal Dexter Fullo said sometimes students who don’t need to be in special education programs are misidentified and put there anyway.
Mead said the Department of Education should work with the University of Guam’s education program to ascertain that teachers can correctly identify students with special needs.
He also suggested that DOE implement a training program for beginning teachers that addresses things like how to maintain classroom discipline.
“Maybe it should be like (rookie teachers) are in the minor league, and they train them,” Mead said.
But many beginning teachers are thrown into a difficult teaching situation to begin with, Daniel Somerfleck said. New teachers often get classrooms full of students who were registered late — often “disenfranchised students.”
This becomes a whole new problem in itself — and a new topic for discussion.
“That’s the assignment nobody wants,” said Kenneth Chargualaf, principal of John F. Kennedy High School.