ICI Supporting Early English Literacy in Micronesia
ICI is supporting efforts to improve early English literacy in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). "We're bringing to this work both the knowledge of the State Systemic Improvement Plan, which aims to improve early English literacy, and expertise in using local assessments to guide instructional decision-making and improved outcomes for students with disabilities at the classroom level," says Maureen Hawes, director of ICI's Systems Improvement Group (SIG). Working through SIG as well as ICI's National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO, which grant-funds the project), Hawes has worked with education leaders in FSM to train general and special educators in collaborative strategies to provide support services to students with disabilities in the general education classroom, and has trained FSM staff in a continuous improvement system that helped implement early English literacy in four pilot schools (one in each of the country's four states). In addition, FSM is receiving NCEO's intensive technical assistance in evaluating and improving English literacy skills among students. FSM has many languages and students are taught in their particular vernacular until fifth grade. English is a second or third language for most Micronesian children and English-language textbooks are scarce in the country.
"These four pilot schools are the first in FSM to teach Reading in English and to use local assessments to gauge performance for grades Early Childhood (kindergarten) to fifth grade," says Hawes. Hawes, who recently returned from working with students and educators in FSM (see photo of one class) credits SIG colleagues Tri Tran and Arlene Russell Bender for this opportunity to work with FSM. They helped establish the relationship with FSM, its states, and its schools. SIG staff's grasp of the cultural context where Micronesian educators work and the infrastructure challenges they face has been essential to this collaboration.
"An example of this is the fact that most schools do not have any books in English, if any books at all," she says. "Our team at SIG hosts an annual book drive to collect children's books, games, and school supplies to send to the four pilot schools. It's hard to learn to read in English when you have no books in English. Our team has sent over 4,000 books in the past three years. This makes a huge difference to the children in the pilot schools."