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DODDS to help returning students catch up on studies

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Students now returning to Japan after evacuating to the United States should bring as much proof as possible of school work done in recent weeks, Department of Defense Dependent Schools Pacific officials said Wednesday.

DODDS-Pacific will give credit for work done at domestic schools and provide opportunities to make up missed lessons for about 3,000 students who fled the country’s nuclear crisis last month for safe havens in the U.S., said Joyce Lutrey, Pacific superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment.

Homework, tests, progress reports and teacher notes could all help the military school system give credit to students for academic progress while they were in the U.S., Lutrey said. For those who fell behind, she said DODDS will offer additional assignments and is considering tutoring and after-hours classes.

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“If a school in the States assigned a grade to [work], we will accept that grade,” she said.

Thousands of fearful military dependents fled Japan last month under a Department of Defense authorization as the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant spewed radiation and threatened to meltdown.

The DOD school system urged parents to enroll children in stateside schools during the evacuation and sent out a letter to districts across the country asking for cooperation.

Now, as students return in the coming days, they will be asked to show their academic work and progress and be evaluated by teachers on what they were supposed to learn, Lutrey said.

Diana Ohman, Director of DODDS Pacific, discussed the situation with a small gathering of parents, school staff and base leadership during a town hall meeting Wednesday afternoon at Misawa Air Base, Japan. She said students who enrolled in Stateside schools or who continued computer-assisted work with their teachers back in the Pacific will simply work with their teachers to assess their progress.

“It’s the student who did neither ... who is very worrisome,” Ohman said. For those students, there “likely will be some catching up to do.”

Those who are missing critical pieces of knowledge will be given additional assignments, she said. “One piece might be, ‘What were the causes of the Civil War?’ ”

Some students may have fallen so far behind that a few additional assignments might not make up for missed education, Lutrey said.

“That can happen, especially for a child who was behind to begin with,” she said.

DODDS is considering different options for bringing those students up to standard, such as tutoring by members of the National Honor Society and Saturday classes, Lutrey said.

The need for additional work will be gauged by individual teachers, she said.

“If this works right, it’s going to be case by case with every student and every teacher,” Lutrey said.

It is still unclear how many departed students heeded the DODDS’ request to continue learning during the disaster because the schools could not reach all those who left, according to DODDS spokesman Charly Hoff.

Hoff said he does not believe missed work will result in any students being held back a year.

“A month of school is a lot, we know that, but in terms of a student being promoted to the next grade level, that is not based on one month [of performance], that is based on an academic year,” he said.

Meanwhile, DODDS says it will be flexible with helping students to overcome any missed learning.

“We are not going to penalize kids,” Hoff said. “If they made an effort, if they were doing something to continue their learning, we are going to work with them and get them the support they need.”

Stars and Stripes reporter T.D. Flack contributed to this story

trittent@pstripes.osd.mil

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