Textbooks for students a rarity in public schools

»COE: We’re teaching students based on standards, not textbooks

Education Commissioner Dr. Rita A. Sablan said yesterday that the Public School System has long shifted its teaching methodologies and strategies to better teach public school students.
From relying on textbooks for class instruction, Sablan said that PSS has long been implementing “teaching the standards” for better learning outcomes.

“PSS has an approved standard which is the curriculum and that’s the basis of what is instructed on a daily basis in the classroom. As far as resource materials, we don’t buy a textbook to use for the curriculum,” Sablan said.

She said that PSS uses as resource for instruction available materials from publishing companies and professional organizations, among other sources.

Sablan emphasized that the Board of Education does not approve textbooks but standards that are expected to be taught students in every classroom.

As an example, if students need to be taught about the ocean, waves, corals, or species, they can be sent to the beaches to learn, for instance, how waves actually happen. The same group of students could also do research at their school libraries and the Web to learn more about the topic.

“It is all about standards that are in the curriculum that are approved by the board,” Sablan reiterated.

She pointed out, though, that PSS school libraries are still equipped with supplemental instructional materials that students and teachers could access. Each year, PSS still procures these materials for its libraries, using funds from the federal consolidated grant, she added.

“To me, whatever resources the teachers believe is aligned to the standards should be used and it doesn’t have to be a textbook,” she said.

Sablan claimed that this direction is in line with PSS and BOE’s goals to expand the technology initiatives for public schools. By using the Internet, it will allow teachers and students access to information that is critical to how standards and benchmarks are being taught in the classroom.

Sablan said the “notion of textbook is something beyond our scope since PSS started implementing the standards-based education.”

Saipan Tribune learned years ago that PSS developed its own standards as a guide to instruction. The system then shifted to the standards-based instruction until it implemented the common core standards.

Supplemental materials

Saipan Southern High School is among those that have seen results in the implementation of a standards-based education.

SSHS principal Jonathan Cabrera said yesterday that all members of the Southern Clusters Schools are working on “both vertical and horizontal alignments” to make sure that students in each grade level are taught what they are supposed to learn and build on that.

The vertical alignment, he explained, is to make sure that 9th graders for instance are provided what they are supposed to learn at that grade level that prepares them for the 10th grade. The horizontal alignment, meantime, is making sure that teachers are on the same page with respect to what they’re teaching in the classroom.

“It doesn’t mean that they do exactly the same thing every single day because we’re also concerned about ensuring that we meet the needs of each student,” he said.

When asked the effectiveness of this strategy in his school, Cabrera said: “I think they’re showing results. As a system, we’re showing improvements and we’re not going to rest on those improvements because we need to continue the improvements.”

But beyond test scores, Cabrera said he’s more concerned about how students feel about how they are being taught. PSS, he said, wants students to feel empowered in their education.

Like many schools, SSHS has a lot of textbooks in its library that serve as supplemental instructional materials for teachers and students. Because most students are tech-savvy nowadays, online materials are becoming very valuable in their education, Cabrera said.

SSHS is home to 840 students and 33 classroom teachers this year.

Moneth G. Deposa | Reporter

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