WASC Midterm Visit a Huge Success for the Majuro Cooperative School

by Giff Johnson, Marshall Islands Journal, March 22, 2013

Last week’s mid-term progress assessment of Majuro Cooperative School by a two-person Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) accreditation team can be best summed up as an A+ for the local school.

Highlighting areas to celebrate, Joe Laturnau from Hawaii and Dr. Gayle Hendricks from Guam pointed to the administration of the school, its strong teaching force, the support from the PTA and the community, and even the school cafeteria and the lunches provided.

“I’ve conducted 20 WASC visits throughout the region since 1996 and this school is one that sticks out for me,” Laturnau said during an exit report Thursday. “The School’s action plans are focused on the expected school-wide learning results — they are clear, focused, results oriented, and they are one of the best plans I’ve ever seen.”

Coop was awarded a six-year accreditation status in 2010 and based on the mid-term report prepared by the school, the WASC team noted significant progress has been made. “Our only recommendation is we have no recommendation,” said Laturnau. “Keep doing what you are doing.”

A key issue in accreditation for all schools is the use of data to evaluate student progress and to make improvements in student learning. Hendricks heaped praise on Coop in this area. “You are not just collecting data and putting it on a shelf to collect dust,” said Hendricks. “We see you are using this data. You are measuring progress, analyzing it, and making instructional improvements now.”

Hendricks also commented on another area that impressed her during the one-day visit to the school. “The kids initiated conversations and their curiosity was refreshing,” she said.

The report from the WASC team will go to the accrediting body’s full commission, which traditionally meets in June to review reports on the status of schools in the western states of the US, Hawaii and the US-affiliated Pacific islands.

Welcome

Majuro Cooperative School (MCS or “Co-op” as it is often called) is a private, secular school educating students in grades pre-K through 12th. The school’s campus is located on the southeast corner of Majuro Atoll, the capital of the Republic of the Marshall Islands. The estimated 2007 population of the Marshall Islands is 53,000 with more than half that number living in Majuro.

The school was founded in 1975 by a small group of concerned parents who wanted to provide their children with a quality education. Co-op was first accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges in March 1994. In April 1997, the school was awarded a 3-year extension of its term of accreditation. It was revisited again in March of 2000, obtaining another 3-year term of accreditation, which was subsequently extended for an additional two years through 2005, and then again through 2007. In July of 2007 the school was accredited for three years through to the summer of 2010. In 2010 the school was given a 6 year accreditation by WASC.

Our Little United Nations

The school has grown significantly since its early days as a one teacher school with a single classroom. There are currently 321 students (about half boys and half girls) enrolled at Co-op, representing diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. The current ethnic/nationality makeup of the student body is very similar to what it was in the late 1990s. This is reflective of the fact that a consistently large number of Marshallese parents have chosen to send their children to Majuro Cooperative School because of its remarkable academic record.

The large percentage of Marshallese attending Co-op means that English is a second language for the majority of students. For the vast majority of Co-op students, even those who have one parent who is a first language English speaker, the language that they use with their family and friends is Marshallese, and English is used only at school. The need for strong English skills underlies the school’s policy of starting English language instruction from the earliest grades in an effort to develop fluency in written and oral English among the students.

A significant challenge for the Marshall Islands is its transition from a rural, largely subsistence way of life to a highly urban, cash economy. Today, with more than 2/3 of the population living in the two major urban centers, cultural norms through the extended family system that governed the society for generations are breaking down.

 

Contact Us:

Majuro Cooperative School

P.O. Box 81, Majuro, MH 96960
Telephone (692) 625-3144
Facsimile (692) 625-3719