U.S. Department of Education senior risk management consultant Christine Jackson labeled as “impressive” the performance of the CNMI Public School System in numerous areas and aspects, despite the fact that it only received limited resources for its operation each year.
For many years, Jackson disclosed that PSS is the only entity under her jurisdiction that was removed from “high risk” status.
She revealed that it was in 2003 when USDOE placed the CNMI public schools in high risk status in relation to managing its federal awards. But barely a year after, she said PSS successfully lifted the status under the then-leadership of the late Dr. Rita Hocog Inos as education commissioner.
“Since 2004, PSS successfully maintained and continuous its progress . [I can say] the only entity that was removed from high risk status since then,” she told Saipan Tribune Friday.
Jackson's office checks and monitors the compliance of school districts to federal standards relating to expending grants and awards such as the regular consolidated grants, special education awards, and state fiscal stabilization fund, among others.
“The fact that even with limited resources for education, it always impressed us that CNMI-PSS maximizes the resources they have. There's always a high bar set for both student performance and teachers' quality. What impressed us the most is the requirement to pass Praxis tests. The CNMI took step further and was able to demonstrate the correlation between teachers' quality and student performance.and that has been very consistent!” Jackson said, adding that the CNMI's success is a pattern that should be adopted in many school districts.
Based on the report released by USDOE National Center for Education Statistics, the CNMI-PSS students' per child expenditure is the second lowest in both the territories and the mainland U.S.-with $5,753 per child. This is far lower than Puerto Rico's $6,949 per child cost; Guam with $8,291 per child cost. Virgin Islands has the highest per child allocation of $15,386 per child. American Samoa, meantime, got the lowest per child cost of education with $4,962. In the U.S. states, average education per child cost is $10,591.
Since July 2011, all classrooms on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota have been filled with only highly qualified teachers: with degree, certifications, and passed Praxis 1 and 2 tests. All school principals and counselors positions have also been filled with highly qualified individuals based on the requirements set by the State Board of Education.
Last Friday, Jackson spent a few hours checking documents at PSS federal programs office. As soon as she came out from office, she admitted to Saipan Tribune that as always, there was no trace of any mismanagement of federal monies.
The visiting official also expressed satisfaction on what she had seen in some places she initially visited Friday. “Based on what I have seen today, I am confident that they have achieved the goal and improve the school climate and environment [through using ARRA funds],” she said, excited to see the other school facilities “up close” in today's scheduled tour of public schools.