November 8, 2023

Enhancing Educational Equity and Opportunity in American Samoa

By Melly Wilson
Credit: Dr. Solomona Tuisamatatele

The American Samoa Department of Education (ASDOE) is committed to increasing equity and access for ALL students in American Samoa. In line with its vision that all students are empowered with 21st-Century literacy and cultural values to achieve success and resilience in diverse life settings, the ASDOE Equity & Compliance Office, in collaboration with the Region 19 Comprehensive Center (R19CC) and the Western Educational Equity Assistance Center (WEEAC), designed and facilitated a three-day Equity Institute designed to strengthen conversations about equity; build knowledge of equitable systemic policies, procedures, and practices; enhance knowledge of cultural, structural, and material dimensions of change; and grow and sustain the capacity of ASDOE to increase outcomes for students regardless of race, gender, religion, and national origin.

The Institute, held September 12-14, 2023, was opened by ASDOE’s Director of Education, Talauega Dr. Samasoni Asaeli, Equity & Compliance Office Program Director, Dr. Juanita Leiato-Manutulila, and Project Manager, Ms. Maria Tuato’o. Institute sessions welcomed the ASDOE Leadership Team, Division Program Directors, principals, vice principals, counselors, and specialists.

The Institute, co-designed by ASDOE, R19CC, and the WEEAC, included sessions on equity in courses and programs, bias in instructional materials, resources for transgender and gender non-conforming students, equity in student discipline, equity in school athletic programs, discrimination and protected classes, equity for English learners and multilingual learners, 504 plans and students with disabilities, and discriminatory and sexual harassment. This Institute was part of a larger service project designed to enhance educational equity in American Samoa.

Credit: Dr. Solomona Tuisamatatele

“ASDOE is committed to helping create an equitable education system, where each student receives what they need to thrive in civic engagement, careers, postsecondary education, and lifelong learning. It is the intent of ASDOE to provide a clear understanding of the importance of educational equity to our education system and we look forward to continued partnership with R19CC and the WEEAC as we work together to build capacity across our school system.”


– Equity & Compliance Office Program Director, Dr. Juanita Leiato-Manutulila

In Spring 2023, ASDOE requested R19CC support to build system-wide capacity to use educational equity as a lens to assess and improve policymaking to support ASDOE’s commitment and ability to meet the needs of every student. Specifically, ASDOE requested capacity building supports to develop and implement a SEA-wide equity plan; build knowledge of non-discrimination law and policy; strengthen supports for homeless children and youth; launch a formal discrimination complaint process; and identify guidance, tools, resources, professional development, and sample materials to support ASDOE’s Equity & Compliance Office in building system-wide policy, human, organizational, and resources capacities. With the focus of the request on educational equity, R19CC reached out to the WEEAC which readily agreed to partner to provide technical assistance and training to promote equitable education opportunities and resources for ASDOE. R19CC is additionally supporting ASDOE as they forge relationships with the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports Center and the National Center for Homeless Education.

Credit: Melly Wilson

The ASDOE Equity & Compliance Office is committed to building an inclusive and vibrant future through education for all students. Equity & Compliance Office Project Manager, Maria Tuato’o shared, “We are excited to move forward and collaborate on MTSS implementation, efforts to reduce chronic absenteeism, bullying, and substance misuse, and trauma-informed approaches to build and sustain system-wide trauma awareness, knowledge, and skills into our organizational cultures, practices, and policies.” The R19CC and WEEAC look forward to continued partnership with ASDOE as we work side-by-side in Fall 2023 and Spring 2024 to develop and implement ASDOE’s Equity Plan; deliver targeted trainings and technical assistance on ASDOE identified priority need areas; and support ASDOE as it continues to strengthen equitable systemic policies, procedures, and practices.

Credit: Melly Wilson
Credit: Melly Wilson
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