«Richard W. Fee Lincoln University Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Julie M. Fee University of Guam Mangilao, Guam Peggy A. Snowden Nicole M. Stuart Dana ...»
The University of Guam Special Education Program: Preparing
Special Education Teachers in a Very Diverse Culture
Richard W. Fee
Julie M. Fee
University of Guam
Peggy A. Snowden
Nicole M. Stuart
University of Illinois at Chicago
Only 12 students graduated from the M.Ed. – Special Education program at the
University of Guam during its first 20 years. In the spring of 2007, with technical
assistance from The Monarch Center, the University of Guam School of Education in partnership with the Guam Department of Education and the Guam Commission on Educator Certification began a major program improvement effort. Designed to provide strong support to a diverse student population, the new program uses an accelerated cohort model composed of practicing and experienced teachers. Since the program redesign, 130 students have graduated. Current outcomes suggest that the benefits of this personnel preparation program extend beyond students with disabilities on Guam to include the larger Guam community.
Keywords: Special Education Teacher Preparation, Global Education, Asia/Pacific Education, Minority Education Historical Background Guam is unique. It is a small tropical island roughly 30 miles long and four to eight miles wide located 13 degrees above the equator. Approximately 6100 miles from the west coast, it is the most distant United States territory. Affiliated with the United States since 1898, Guam is a formal territory like Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands (Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), 2012). The indigenous people known as Chamorros obtained U.S. citizenship under the Organic Act of 1950 (Guam Online, n. d.). Due to its strategic military location, it was not until the late 1960’s that the military opened the island to non-military visitors and granted the people the right to elect their own non-federally appointed governor. The Spanish rule brought trade and Catholicism to the island and over 85% of the current population is Catholic (CIA, 2012).
Interdisciplinary Journal of Teaching and Learning Volume 2, Number 3 Fall 2012 145 According to the recent 2010 U.S. Census, 37.1% of the 159,358 residents identified themselves as Chamorro (U.S. Census 2012). Today, although many local people call themselves Chamorros, they are really a mix of Chamorro, Spanish, Filipino, Mexican and Micronesian backgrounds (Guam Online, n. d.). In this matriarchal society, mothers tend to list their children as Chamorro when they register them for school. However, due to peer pressure, many adolescents later identify themselves with other ethnic groups as they enter high school. Students are likely to become Filipino because their friends are Filipino or more importantly, their father or grandparents came from the Philippines. Most local people have some Filipino background, with 26.3% identifying themselves as pure Filipino (CIA, 2012).
The official languages of Guam are Chamorro and English (Guampedia, n. d.). Chamorro is a dying language as it was previously forbidden in the schools by the United States military (Clampitt-Dunlap, 1995). It was considered the home language rather than a language to be taught in schools. Many local people saw the acquisition of strong English skills as a way to obtain better jobs and opportunities on the U.S. mainland. During the 1990’s, with a resurgence of interest in language and culture, the public elementary and middle schools introduced one period a day of Chamorro instruction. The “American” influence is quite strong on Guam due to the media and ease of travel, so it is very rare to hear Chamorro spoken except by the manamokko (elderly) or politicians during the election season. By late 1990’s Guam began to develop a tourist industry for the Asia-Pacific region, which now attracts over 1.5 million visitors each year (CIA, 2012). While students may never acquire proficiency in Chamorro, they will probably absorb sufficient Japanese language skills to work in the continually growing tourist industry.
Guam follows the U. S. educational system with an administrative structure very similar to Hawaii. The territory (state) has only one school district with approximately 31,095 students in 41 schools. (Guam Department of Education, 2011). The superintendent serves as both the territorial (state) and district leader of the Guam Department of Education (GDOE). The Guam Education Policy Board, made up of elected and governor-appointed members, also serves in a dual advisory role.
Despite a thriving tourist industry and military presence, Guam schools receive little funding, less than $6,000 per student each year (Guam Department of Education, 2011). Except for five new schools built in recent years, most schools are in very poor shape (Temkar, 2012). Tropical weather combined with little or no maintenance has caused the Attorney General’s office to make regular health inspections. As a result, many schools are closed for weeks at a time due to poor conditions.
According to the last Annual State of the Public Education Report SY 2010-2011 (Guam Department of Education, ASPER 2011), 97% of public school children on Guam qualify for free or reduced lunches. The federal government designates all 41 public schools as low-income (Bureau of Statistics and Plans, 2011). In addition, there are 19 parochial schools on Guam, and local residents who serve in the military can place their children in the Department of Defense Education Activity (DODEA) military school system.
Interdisciplinary Journal of Teaching and Learning Volume 2, Number 3 Fall 2012 146 Multicultural Society On the United States mainland, many issues concerning multicultural education revolve around the education of African-American and Hispanic students. Once again, Guam enjoys a unique status as one of the most multicultural societies in the America. ASPER 2010-2011 listed the ethnic backgrounds of students in the GDOE system. Table 1 indicates the distribution of Guam public school students by ethnicity.
Although it appears that there are eight ethnic groups, a footnote in the report describes the
…at least 21 ethnic groups are represented. The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) includes students from Rota, Saipan and Tinian. Asians are comprised of Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Indonesian and Vietnamese ethnic groups.
Pacific Islanders includes Hawaiians, Samoan, Kosraean, Pohnpeian, Chuukese, Yapese, Marshallese, Palauan, and Fijian. Other is comprised of African-American, Hispanic, American Indian-Native, Alaskan, Unknown and Unclassified.
Unaccounted represents students who did not officially report their ethnicity information (ASPER 2010-2011, p 23).
In addition, three distinct Filipino regional groups are not included in this list. Not surprisingly, the GDOE reported that 14,449 or 46% of the total population are English Language Learners (ELL). Within the ELL population, 18 different languages are spoken (ASPER 2010-2011).
Therefore, the average classroom teacher would expect to work in a deteriorating school, instructing students from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds, and working with students (97%) who are living below or near the poverty level. GDOE follows an inclusionary model, so the ELL and special education students are in the general classroom for the majority of the school day. In many ways, the only difference between poor urban schools on the mainland and Guam schools is the tropical weather.
Interdisciplinary Journal of Teaching and Learning Volume 2, Number 3 Fall 2012 147 University of Guam The University of Guam (UOG) recently celebrated its 60th Anniversary as the first and only American Land-grant University in the Asia/Pacific region (University of Guam, n.d.). The mission of the university has expanded to serve not only Guam, but also the islands of Micronesia, a geographical area the size of the continental United States. The university now maintains B.A. level teacher training centers in Yap, Pohnpei, Kosrae and Chuuk.
In the fall of 2011, there were 3,839 students enrolled in the University. UOG enrollment is similar to that of the GDOE with the exception that Chamorros make up 39.8% of the overall student population while Filipinos are close behind with 35.9%. Since only 4.5% of students fall under the “White” category, the university is considered a minority serving institution by the U.S. Department of Education (UOG Factbook, 2010-2011).
The School of Education (SOE) offers BA and Masters degrees in a variety of areas including early childhood, elementary, secondary, TESOL, and special education. Along with programs to train ESL and Chamorro teachers, the SOE also prepares school and mental health counselors as part of the Master of Arts in Counseling Program.
UOG Special Education Program
Like many universities, UOG is facing major changes in the way they prepare special education teachers. The BA level program prepares teachers to be certified by the Guam Commission on Educator Certification in generalist special education K-12. Graduates, however, are expected to teach all special needs children from Birth to 21.
With the changes in the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) regarding the preparation of “Highly Qualified Teachers” (HQT), UOG is in the process of removing the undergraduate preparation program in favor of a graduate level preparation program. It does not seem possible for students to complete a major and all the certification requirements within the traditional four-year period.
The idea of developing a fifth year Masters program has not received much interest from students or faculty. Therefore, the undergraduate program is expected to close in the next two years.
At the present time, the Master of Education – Special Education program has the largest enrollment and the most graduates than any other graduate program on campus. This was not always the case. This Masters was initiated in the 1980’s as a research degree that did not include teacher certification. Only 12 students graduated with this research degree prior to 2006.
There is a great need on Guam for certified special education teachers (Guam Department of Education (n. d.), as there are about 400 special education positions in GDOE that require formal special education certification. Prior to 2007, approximately100 teachers met the requirements of special education certification, and the turnover rate was high. Also, as of 2006, only one of the approximately 30 administrators held either a Masters degree or special education certification;
that person was the Associate Superintendent of Special Education.
Interdisciplinary Journal of Teaching and Learning Volume 2, Number 3 Fall 2012 148 In the spring of 2007, the Executive Director of the UOG School of Education directed the Program Chair of the Special Education program to partner with GDOE to resolve this problem.
The critical needs areas for teachers were special education and ESL. The university had recently created an experimental one-year fast track or accelerated program for career changers who wanted to teach in secondary schools. This program used a common approach found in other universities. Students received temporary teaching certificates, obtained a teaching position (all vacancies), and took undergraduate classes as a group or cohort over a 12-18 month period. At the end of the program, they earned a teaching certificate. While UOG worked on changing this to a traditional MAT program, these early students could not obtain a Masters degree due to the pace of the higher education administrative structure. While this was not a perfect situation for graduates, GDOE did obtain more certified special education teachers.
When it came time to partner with GDOE in training more special education teachers, the
assembled planning committee discussed the following issues:
1. Need for an accelerated program – GDOE needed more trained educators because the federal government was putting great pressure on GDOE to have qualified teachers and administrators. There was also a high demand by currently employed educators who lacked certification and a Master’s degree.
2. Attention to high attrition rates - New BA level special education teachers quickly became overwhelmed with the normal demands of special education and either left the profession, or the island with the hope that mainland schools could provide better support.
3. Responsiveness to diversity – The majority of new graduates had little experience with teaching children with disabilities from diverse backgrounds.
4. Need for Master’s program redesign– The program at the time was a research degree with none of the current course offerings applicable to certification.
After several months of discussion with the leaders in the GDOE Special Education Division, a plan of action was developed that would meet the challenges presented above in a short time frame.
Need for an accelerated program. While other university programs were experimenting with self-paced online courses and fast-track programs, the conditions were right for the development of an Accelerated Master of Education – Special Education program. During the spring of 2007, the School of Education, the GDOE Special Education Division and the territory’s Guam Commission on Educator Certification (GCEC) worked closely to modify the new Masters in special education. The goals were to fit the schedule of full-time educators, meet the unique multicultural needs of the schools, assist the graduates in completing the certification requirements of the “HQT” status under the NCLB Act, and build in an evaluation system to measure success.