The Guam Department of Education (GDOE) is highlighting several bright spots in its Annual State of Public Education Report (ASPER) for School Year (SY) 2018-2019.
The comprehensive report is required by P.L. 26-26, and provides a summary of student demographic characteristics and achievements, employee qualifications and certifications, budget expenditures and local and federal sources of revenue.
According to GDOE, one notable department-wide highlight is the increasing graduation rate, which has reached an all-time high of 87.3% in SY 18-19, with 1,871 graduates receiving their high school diplomas last year. By comparison, six years ago, the GDOE graduation rate failed to reach 70%, with less than 1,800 students finishing. In addition, the dropout rate — which topped 5 percent in 2012 and 2014 — remained low at just 3.2% for SY18-19.
“Our focus has definitely strengthened in terms of getting our students over the finish line in high school. Our goal is for each of our students to earn that high school diploma, which is essentially their springboard to college or career opportunities. Without a diploma, our students would face significant obstacles in pursuing their hopes and dreams, so we have made it a central priority to ensure that our students get the support they need to meet their graduation goals,” GDOE Superintendent Jon Fernandez said in a news release.
Another bright spot cited by GDOE is the number of students demonstrating work readiness skills as measured by the ACT WorkKeys assessment. In partnership with the Guam Community College, high school students are able to take the WorkKeys assessment and earn a National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) by obtaining a bronze level or higher on the assessment. Graduates can take the NCRC certificate to employers on island as well as in the mainland when they apply for jobs. Over the past five years, the number of students who have received a NCRC certificate has increased from 395 to 903, with 399 (37%) scoring at the bronze level, 257 (24%) scoring silver, 149 (13%) reaching gold, and 98 (9%) obtaining platinum, the highest level possible.
“We are seeing tremendous improvements in how students are faring on WorkKeys. Earning a nationally-recognized certificate of work readiness is a major accomplishment, and to have almost 100 students scoring platinum this past year is amazing. It gives employers additional evidence that students are ready to enter the workforce,” Fernandez said.
He added that students reached and even exceeded national benchmarks in English, which, Fernandez says, is a “significant” feat, considering that 18,690 (or 63%) of students are English as a second-language learners.
“I’m proud to see our students do well in English, and even exceed the national benchmarks, especially given that over 60 percent of our students are categorized as ESL learners,” Fernandez said. “Clearly, we still have room to grow in reading and math, which is a challenge that many states also face. We are making progress due to the hard work of our teachers and staff, but there is still work to be done.”