Graduation rates surpass GDOE’s 2020 goal, but at what cost?

Guam Department of Education (PNC file photo)


Guam – GDOE graduation rates are surpassing their State Strategic Plan goal of reaching an 80% graduation rate by 2020. As we take a closer look, there seems to be some questionable policy changes that affect the quality of education.

Two days ago, GDOE sent out a press release highlighting the achievements of the department, primarily its successes with regards to the increase in graduation rates. Guam Law requires that students receive 1,260 hours of learning in a school year. Back in the day, if you skipped too many classes, you either fail the class, or get what’s called an NC, No Credit.

According to Deputy Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction, Joe Sanchez, about 700 students throughout GDOE receive NC’s each semester. Out of those 700 students, half of them were receiving C’s or higher and 10% of them received A’s. These about 350’s students, who would otherwise pass a class, received NC’s due to a lack of attendance and ultimately affected their ability to graduate on time.

Sanchez emphasized that “academics, is dealt through academics. You can’t penalize somebody for attendance, that’s basically it.”

While discussing the press release with a few teachers, they expressed their frustrations. One teacher, who wanted to remain anonymous, told PNC that because of the new policies at GDOE, which are aimed at getting students to graduate, it has affected the quality of the students’ education. Now, especially with the fact that there is no reprimand for skipping classes anymore, their students don’t seem to care about showing up to school.

When we asked Sanchez about the old policy, and how it impacted students, he stated “That was a terrible policy that should be abolished years ago. It was unfair, it was discriminatory, it was inappropriate for any system that claims to be standards based. What it did was it only affected only one particular group of students, we’d never fail students because of attendance before, what happens is if a student is passing and misses a certain number of classes, then they would get a no credit.”

He then asked the question, “What is our focus when we have a class? Do we want them to learn biology, do we want them to learn math, do you want them to learn whatever skills that that class has, or, is it just attendance that you are concerned about?”

Sanchez states that the old policy made attendance, count more than anything else. He also mentioned that there was a student who got a 95 percent in a particular class, but because of attendance, the student did not get any credit. Calling the policy unfair, he acknowledges that there are some that have come back and questioned whether or not the school places an emphasis on the importance of education.  To that he answered “You can teach them how to be responsible about attendance using other ways, just don’t touch the grades. Give them the grade that they earn, that’s all that we are saying.”

The Deputy Superintendent did mention that GDOE does have procedures in place to communicate with the student, communicate with the families and encourage them to come back. He also mentioned that there is a committee within the Guam education board that is working on other ways that students can be motivated to come to school. These initiatives that are aimed at engaging the interests of today’s students include the Online Learning platform which PNC covered yesterday, and also hands-on learning like the Construction Warrior initiative, which we will cover  in tomorrow’s newscast.

Find the press release below:

GDOE graduation rate increases while dropout rate remains low