Micronesia project illustrates UO reach
The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) have turned to the University of Oregon for help with primary education, voting recently for university guidance in implementing an innovative approach to instruction called “response to intervention.”
The move culminated more than three years of work by a long-standing program in the College of Education. And it illustrated anew the UO's global presence in education: In a multi-faceted partnership stretching from Eugene, California and Iowa to the island nation southwest of Hawaii, all parties have direct ties to the UO and the college.
The UO's standing in education is well-known. Faculty at the College of Education continue to lead the nation's education researchers in productivity (measured by research award expenditures) and the college holds a no. 3 ranking among public graduate programs of education.
Compared with other graduate schools of education across the nation, the college also ranks no. 3 for its special education program for a 12th straight year and no. 8 among all graduate education programs, and is the only top-tier ranked college of education in Oregon and the leader in the Northwest.
One of the critical missions of the college – and the university – is public outreach. To that end, the outreach unit of the college – Technical Assistance and Consulting Services (TACS) – has long operated the OSEP-funded Western Regional Resource Center, which provides technical assistance in special education to seven states and six U.S. jurisdictions of the South Pacific.
The center supports the UO's commitment to public outreach by working with state education agencies to install quality programs and services for children with disabilities and their families. The center serves a region with a wide geographic, linguistic, cultural, and population diversity, stretching from Idaho and the West Coast to Alaska, Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the republics of the Marshall Islands and Palau.
In the partnership with Micronesia, the center and consultants Steve Spencer of San Diego State University and Dave Tilly of the Iowa Department of Education are working with Rufino Mauricio, FSM secretary of education, and Arthur Albert, FSM director of special education. Spencer, Tilly and Mauricio all received doctorates at the UO, with Spencer and Tilly earning theirs from the College of Education.
“When you're out in the world and talk about special education and higher education, the University of Oregon comes up,” said John Inglish, TACS director. “Our alums are connected at the farthest reaches of the globe, taking the mission of TACS as far as it can go.”
Response to intervention, or RtI, is an educational framework within which instruction is tailored to each child's needs.
Those who struggle to learn receive frequent progress measurements and increasingly intensive research-based instructional interventions. The model aims to provide necessary supports and services to struggling learners in the general education environment, and to identify students with more intensive needs using systematic data review.
Elizabeth Jankowski and Caroline MaGee, faculty members with the center, will travel to Guam at the end of the month to spearhead the implementation of RtI and programs that bring general education and special education together in the classroom. Students with disabilities have a civil right to be in mainstream environments, Inglish noted.
“This is where the paddle meets the water,” Mauricio said. “I’m optimistic that this collaboration at different levels is the wind to steer our canoe in the right direction.”
Albert added: “We have great teachers and outstanding administrators throughout Micronesia. This project will allow us to see the greatness of the educators across the nation.”
Spencer, ‘87, director of the Interwork Institute Center for Pacific Studies, said the UO’s commitment to international programs was critical to enabling him to achieve his doctorate: He was working in education in Guam at the time and professors were flown from Eugene to teach his cohort of 20 students, allowing him to keep his job while pursuing his degree. The university’s commitment to global outreach remains strong today, as evidenced by the Micronesia project, he added.
“Small but vital programs that serve relatively small populations like those in Micronesia help ensure the UO’s value and bring a sense of strength and diversity to the university that otherwise they would not have,” Spencer said. “And to be frank, a lot of universities don’t.”
Inglish said the UO team of faculty and consultants will be acting as trainers in Micronesia, working closely with teachers at four pilot schools, grades K-3, to introduce the new RtI framework and methodology.
But once they touch down among the islands that comprise Micronesia, the trainers are sure to learn as much as they impart, he added.
“There is a universal passion and commitment to educating kids,” Inglish said. “It's a humbling learning opportunity for us – how to implement these programs while maintaining that healthy respect for culture, tradition and history.”
-- story by Matt Cooper, UO Office of Strategic Communications