With continuing grant assistance from Credit Suisse, Synergeia pursued the Reading Proficiency program for Manuel L. Quezon Elementary School (MLQES) in school year 2007-2008. The program, named by the community as the “Zero Non-Reader Program”, began two years ago with 850 Grade One pupils. On its third year, 700 Grade Three students and their teachers are directly benefiting from the program. Most of these pupils happen to be the same students who started with the program in school year 2005-2006 and are now reaping the fruits of sustained interventions to increase reading proficiency.
Three years into the program, there have been marked improvements in the way members of the school community, including parents and barangay leaders, view education. This in turn has led to better home-school collaboration and increased levels of performance of children in English. Not even the change in the school leadership, with the assumption into office of new principal Ms. Emir Velasco, hampered program implementation. Earlier, teachers and parents expressed misgivings about how the new principal would handle a program which was very much identified with its former school head, Ms. Marina Santos. But their fears were doused as soon as Ms. Velasco embraced the program, albeit not immediately. The new school head took time to see how the program has contributed to the performance of Grades One and Two children. The results of previous assessment tests and the evident support of teachers and parent-leaders convinced Ms. Velasco of the program’s efficacy.
1. Learning from Other Partners
Synergeia Retreat 2008 Participation
Every year, Synergeia provides all its partners and stakeholders a venue to learn from each other. It invites representatives from its partner-organizations to its Annual Retreat, which is essentially its answer to the traditional planning session. Here, partners assess their respective programs, share experiences, draw lessons, and produce best practices.
Teachers from MQES, led by its Grade 3 Chair Ms. Teresita de Austria, participated for the first time in the Synergeia Retreat.
Held last February 11-13, 2008, the theme for this year’s retreat was “The Complete Synergist”. It is a fitting description of the ever-growing family of Synergeia friends and partners – clearly a force that performs and assists in performing – through coaching and peer-teaching, empowering and self-modeling, collaboration and partnerships and advocacy and collective action. Such is the same spirit that moves the Education Governance program in the Manila sites.
About 130 participants were divided into smaller groups during the workshops, where they discussed lessons and best practices on: (1) engaging the community, (2) making meaningful data, and (3) telling our stories (advocacy).
The three issues in education which affect participants the most were: (1) the poor academic performance of children, (2) the lack of community involvement/ support for education, and (3) inadequacy of school infrastructure. Each partner shared his/ her experience in addressing these concerns.
Synergeia has been working since 2005 to come up with a standard reading assessment tool which can be used to gauge performance of students in Synergeia municipalities. It has created a report card system that not just looks at proficiency level of students, but teacher performance, parent involvement and Local School Board performance as well. The Synergeia report card was presented during the Retreat and below are suggestions made by participants to enhance the content, conduct and quality of the tool:
- Conduct informal reading inventory to assess students’ progress and evaluate degree by which students meet learning objectives (vis-à-vis yearly assessment only)
- Create a tool to facilitate collaboration and communication among faculty on matters of teaching and curriculum
- Use tables and graphs when presenting data on performance to parents
The evenings were spent for fellowship and games. Participants were divided according to regions and the Luzon group was the noisiest. They took the charades game to heart and were overjoyed to win the crown for Mr. and Ms. Synergeia 2008. The fellowship also revealed that many Synergeia partners were excellent dancers – and they were just unstoppable on the dance floor!
The team from MLQES found the retreat a most fulfilling experience. Lessons from other communities helped them appreciate the difficulties and the rewards of participatory governance in education, and inspired them to do better.