SAIPAN – Because the COVID-19 pandemic caused significant interruption in the last school year and delay in this academic year, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands public school students have a lot of catching up to do, Education Commissioner Alfred B. Ada said.

During the Board of Education meeting on Wednesday, Ada said the Public School System has “shifted to priority standards,” which means “backtracking to cover the standards that PSS was not able to implement in March 2020.”

He said students will work on lessons from their previous grade level “to make sure they are up to par with the academic standards.”

He added, “That is what we are doing in the first quarter since the opening of the new school year. It is necessary. The teachers and principals agree that there is [a] missing link and it’s shortchanging the students.”

Ada said, “Moving up to the next standard without mastery of the previous standard is not good for our students.”

“So there are a lot of flexibilities that are happening in the schools in this academic year,” he said. “There are advanced learners, but there are also those who need more interventions, which include face-to-face instruction.”

Ada said PSS is also focusing on students with low attendance, and those who are failing their classes.

He said these students must attend face-to-face classes “so that we can help them.”

“So that is the status that we are right now as we approach the second quarter of the school year,” Ada told the board.

Board member Andrew Orsini, for his part, noted the importance of assessing the students “to make sure that our students get the best possible instruction they can [despite] what they are going through right now, especially with this online learning.”

Board Chairwoman Janice A. Tenorio agreed, saying that it is important to assess the students in different subjects and at different levels.

She said the board would also like to see the data on student learning.

Commissioner Ada said the PSS Office of Accountability and Evaluation has collected data while the Office of Curriculum and Instruction is monitoring and evaluating the students’ progress.

He said these offices will be putting together a report soon, and it will be submitted to the BOE.