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REL Pacific

Meeting the Needs of the Pacific Region: An Example of Professional Learning in Chuuk

REL Pacific
Barry Harris
March 16, 2018


As an educator in the mainland United States, I spent most of my career as a classroom teacher, professional school counselor, and principal. But even after serving school districts in these positions, when I joined REL Pacific I knew I had much more to learn about meeting the needs of education stakeholders in the Pacific region.

At REL Pacific, we work with K–12 school districts and colleges in American Samoa, Guam, Hawai'i, the Northern Mariana Islands, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia (Chuuk, Kosrae, Pohnpei, and Yap), and the Republic of Palau. The privilege of working with stakeholders in these unique Pacific region islands has taught me that no amount of work experience on the U.S. mainland can take the place of listening, observing, empathizing, and being sensitive to the needs and current efforts underway in the Partnerships that REL Pacific supports.

A great example is a recent workshop on professional learning that we facilitated in Chuuk in February 2018. Chuuk, one of the four states in the Federated States of Micronesia, consists of more the 300 islets, fewer than 40 of which are inhabited, with the majority of the population residing on the mountainous islands inside a reef-protected lagoon. REL Pacific has two researcher-practitioner Partnerships in Chuuk: a Partnership for College and Career Readiness and Success, and a Partnership for the Improvement of Teaching.

In 2016, the Chuuk Department of Education (DOE) had a student population of 12,307, and a teacher population of 293—about 40 students per teacher.1 A shortage of teachers and teacher qualification programs is one challenge that the Chuuk DOE currently faces, so REL Pacific is working with its Partnership for the Improvement of Teaching to support work in the area of teacher training and professional learning in Chuuk. The February workshop in Chuuk focused on Interstate Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (InTASC) Model Core Teaching Standards2, in order to encourage discussion on the topic of high-quality, evidence-based professional learning. The InTASC standards “outline what teachers should know and be able to do to ensure every PK–12 student reaches the goal of being ready to enter college or the workforce in today's world.”3 In preparing for this workshop, it was critically important for us to recognize that our understanding of professional learning and teaching standards needed to be adapted and framed for Chuuk's unique context to better support them as they address teacher shortages. Our first role was to facilitate conversation and listen to stakeholders' challenges and successes from their own perspectives.

In working with the Chuuk Partnership, we discussed the InTASC standards as a catalyst for adapting and developing teaching standards for the Chuukese context. During robust discussions and activities focused on Chuuk's need to increase teacher capacity, the Partnership was able to draft a set of standards, in real time, that incorporated the essence of the InTASC standards with some Chuuk-specific additions, such as the need for teacher cultural literacy in both local Chuukese culture and a second culture so that students are better prepared for both college and careers in Chuuk and beyond.

The February professional learning workshop in Chuuk was an example of a successful collaboration among Partnership members and a positive step toward creating concrete, actionable items for designing high-quality evidence-based professional learning. REL Pacific will continue working with the Chuuk Partnership throughout the 2017–2022 contract cycle, as with all of our Pacific Partnerships, on the priority areas they have identified. If you have any questions, would like information about our evidence-based resources, such as recent studies, Ask a REL responses, and more, or if you would like to know more about the work being done with our Partnerships, please feel free to contact us at relpacific@mcrel.org. We'd love to hear from you! .

Footnotes:

1Federated States of Micronesia National Department of Education. (2018). Retrieved from http://national.doe.fm/
2InTASC Model Core Teaching Standards and Learning Progressions for Teachers 1.0: A Resource for Ongoing Teacher Development. Washington, DC: Author.Federated States of Micronesia Visitor's Board. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.visit-micronesia.fm/state/c_top.html.
3Ibid, 3.