At a gathering of school administrators and program managers yesterday, Education Commissioner Rita A. Sablan, Ed.D., unveiled her new goals for school districts, which include the gradual implementation of the “P3 Initiative” beginning this school year.
The “P3 Initiative” is a program that sets a continuous and seamless progression in educating children from pre-school to third grade.
Sablan said the focus starting this school year will be on kindergarten students while succeeding grade levels will be placed under the program in the following years.
According to Sablan, the P3 Initiative will require PSS to go out and visit every home and sit down with the parents of students so they can develop a comprehensive plan on five key components: physical well-being, emotional, social, cognitive development, and health of the child. They will look at what the school system can do to further help children transition from kindergarten to elementary.
Prior to their entry to elementary school, children go through pre-school programs such as Early Childhood, Head Start, and kindergarten.
By phasing in the P3 Initiative, Sablan said that PSS will have more time to work with school counselors, staff, and teachers in terms of giving them the necessary trainings to ensure its smooth implementation.
She said the most crucial years of getting children ready is in their early years and that’s in preschool. Researches and studies, she said, are consistent in saying that a continuous and seamless transition to education reduces the gap in student learning that usually arises when they are already in middle and high school years.
“By the time we are gradually implementing it, we cover all four grade levels [kindergarten to third grade]. This plan is really to pay a very close attention to the human growth and development of children in primary grade. That should not be compromised or negotiated,” Sablan told Saipan Tribune during a break in yesterday’s leadership workshop at Pacific Islands Club.
Sablan said all five components—physical, emotional, social, cognitive development, and health—are key to preparing a child for school.
Sablan also disclosed yesterday that starting in school year 2014-2015, PSS will implement the “Next Generation Science,” a national common standard for science designed to prepare students for college and career readiness after high school.
PSS implemented last school year two national common core standards: English and language arts and math.
“Now that we will be moving in to the Next Generation Science next school year, we will do all the planning this school year with the hope that this will be adopted by the Board of Education for next year’s implementation,” she said.
With all the technology innovations happening in the world, CNMI students need to adapt to the “science” trend that will aid them in college and their careers, Sablan said.
PSS gauges the knowledge learned by its students each year using two exams: the Standardized Achievement Test or SAT-10 and Standard Based Assessment tests, or SBA.
SAT-10 is a norm reference test that measures the students’ learning in all areas, including core content subjects. SBA is a criterion test of what every student or child is expected to know, and a score is compared to set benchmarks.
Sablan said a new assessment called “Smarter Balance” would be implemented by next school year. It is designed for English language arts and mathematics.
“The SBA [for English language arts and math] will be replaced by Smarter Balance because it’s directly aligned with common core standards. Because if we are to measure the performance of students against standards, then we need to identify the assessment that is directly aligned with them,” she explained.
Implementation of both the Smarter Balance assessment and Next Generation Science must first be approved by the Board of Education before they can be enforced.
“We’d really like to bring this to the board because this is really about student performance,” Sablan said.
SBA and SAT 10 will still be administered, except that SBA on English and math will be replaced by the new Smarter Balance assessment.
“We will replace English and math at SBA, but SBA on science, social studies and others will still be administered,” Sablan said.
When asked for the need to shift to this new test, Sablan said: “When you look at assessment, there are two important things: reliability and validity of the assessment. Smarter Balance was developed for the purpose of assessing English and math.”