Native Village Youth and Education News
February 1, 2009 Issue 194 Volume 2


Group aims to boost Native American graduation rate
Condensed by Gina Boltz, Director, Native Village Publications

The current education system is in crisis as evidenced by:
1,200,000 high school dropouts nationwide among all ethnic groups
70% of minorities graduate high school,
 Only about
50% of Native Americans get a diploma

Arizona:  Hopi tribal member, Willard Gilbert, is a former junior high school teacher and current multicultural professor at Northern Arizona University-Flagstaff. He is also past president of the National Indian Education Association and a member of the Campaign for High School Equity. CHSE is a civil rights coalition for high school education reform. One aim is to eliminate achievement gaps for Native students. "The major reason Native students drop out is they are bored," Gilbert said. "There's a disconnect between what they bring to school of their language and culture and what's being taught at school." The way to help Indian students succeed, Gilbert said, is bringing Native oral histories, legends, and language to the school curriculum along with greater involvement by Native elders.

A recent science program between Arizona tribal students and the national Science Foundation led to higher academic scores and improved attitude toward science. Gilbert wants to prepare more Native Students through the STEM program which emphasizes science, technology, engineering and math. He is working on educational standards and partnering with Harvard and NIEA to create Native cultural standards and teacher assessments to use throughout Indian Country
The San Pasqual Valley Unified High School District in Winterhaven has
180 students. 54% are Native American whose overall graduation rate is 70%.  "We've got a  good relationship with the Quechan Tribal Education Center," said David Schoneman, district superintendent. "Our district has a family feeling and it helps motivate students to succeed."

Their success is credited to:
San Pasqual Schools has five governing board members. Four are Native Americans, including board President Bernadine Swiftarrow.
 San Pasqual intervention programs motivate at-risk students to graduate.
Options such as online classes allow students to accelerate at their own pace.
Afterschool programs for K-12 students offer classes in beadwork, artifacts, dance and Native language.
"We're fortunate to have that relationship with the tribal community. We couldn't do it alone," Schoneman said. "What would help even more is to have Native graduates return to San Pasqual as teachers because when the kids see that, they learn there's an open door to the professions."
Graphics: Heather's animations

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