ECHO Culture & Change Symposium 2008

Executive Summary

Executive Summary

NATIVE EDUCATION POLICY:


NCLB & BEYOND


Choctaw, Mississippi; October 6-8 2008



On October 6 – 8, 2008 ECHO (Education through Cultural and Historical Organizations), a program of the US Department of Education Office of Innovation and Improvement, convened a symposium to discuss the effects of NCLB (No Child Left Behind) on Native communities, and to share strategies for the upcoming debate over the re-authorization of ESEA (Elementary & Secondary Education Act of 1964)/NCLB.

The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and the collaborating institutions of ECHO hosted educators and cultural professionals from across the country. The purpose of the gathering was to share insights and experiences from their communities regarding the implementation of NCLB in their respective domains and their vision for a constructive future for Native education in the United States. The group consisted of nationally-recognized experts in the field of Native Education, members of the Choctaw education community and representatives from the six ECHO institutions. This document summarizes their joint findings and recommendations.

Historical Context:


The sympoisum took place within a context of Native education reform efforts reaching back over many years. The Meriam Report (1928), commissioned by the Dept. of the Interior, recommended incorporating tribal languages and culture into Indian education, sounding a theme that remains nearly unanimous in tribal and Native community educational thought. A wave of US government reforms in the late 1960s and early '70s resulted in the formation of the National Indian Education Association (1970) and the Indian Education Act of 1972, among other efforts, both of which supported the central findings of Meriam.  Two Presidential Orders, under Clinton in 1998 and Bush in 2003, strengthened a vision of Native language and culture as the basis of the Native educational system. Notwithstanding the long history of supportive documents and gestures, these efforts have enjoyed limited practical success and support. Progress toward the goal of an equitable system for education of Native children, as well as children of other groups outside the dominant cultural context, has been inconsistent at best.

ECHO Institutions:


The ECHO Culture & Change Symposium, Native Education: NCLB and Beyond, was organized as a joint project of the collaborating institutions of ECHO (Education through Cultural and Historical Organizations). This group of cultural institutions spans the US, and includes organizations with ties to Native Hawaiians, Alaska Natives, Native Americans, and non-Native communities with historical ties to those groups. The use of linguistic and cultural models for reaching, retaining and engaging Native students has been a dominant theme in Native education for decades. Similarly, museums and other cultural institutions have increasingly developed methodologies using culture- and place-based lessons to reach learners of all backgrounds and ages. These institutions have worked to tie these methods to the national and state educational frameworks by providing physical, tangible experiences that demonstrate required intellectual concepts. The confluence of these two distinct but related lines of thought has resulted in the present symposium.

Findings

Findings


The presenters shared many common themes in their assessments of the effects of NCLB on Native communities. While individual outlooks varied, there was general consensus on the following points:


Native communities have been left behind. US indigenous communities are chronically underserved and consistently underperform the US mean in reading and math (National Indian Education Study, 2007, IES). There are approximately 620,000 Indian students enrolled nationwide in grades K-12. More than 50% will drop out of school by 12th grade (NIEA Transition Paper, 2008). Test scores for the US as a whole have improved slightly since the advent of NCLB. Scores for Native students, on the other hand, have remained nearly unchanged (National Indian Education Study, 2007, US Dept. of Education, Institute of Education Sciences).

Standardized tests are created from the perspective of the dominant culture. As such they tend to alienate Native students, as well as others whose cultural “givens” diverge from those expected by test authors.  There is evidence to suggest that culture-based programs get Native students engaged, keep them in school longer, and graduate them at higher rates. Parent, community and student involvement in curriculum development leads to tighter connection with schools.

In education, “universal” does not equal “uniform”; “standards” are not the same as “standardization”.  Knowledge is specific to content and subject matter, so teaching critical thinking and engagement with your physical and cultural surroundings is key. NCLB has reduced emphasis on local reality, environment and traditions, thereby disenfranchising those communities that are rooted in place and culture. There is a growing body of evidence that a child grounded in his or her own culture is better able to learn and more adaptable to others.

Not only for Native students…  Although the Federal government has a special relationship to and responsibility for Native communities, the lessons to be learned in Native education will be applicable to education of any culturally marginalized group: English Language Learners, immigrants, and religious or historically isolated groups, to name but a few. Basing education in the culture of the learner is a strategy that can be applied to the whole community of students in the United States.

Creativity and critical thinking are central. Creative and critical thinking skills have been abandoned under NCLB in favor of standardized and uniform practices. This trend acts to the detriment of the population broadly, with differential disadvantage to Native communities with limited resources and corresponding challenges in attracting and retaining excellent teachers for rural and underfunded school districts.

Recommendations

Recommendations


Community and cultural identity are indispensable pillars of successful education. Appreciation and acceptance of the diverse learner population creates stronger and more ambitious learners. Educational outcomes for Native and other culturally distinctive student populations that exist outside the mainstream can and must be improved. This can best be accomplished by developing tactics that focus on the child in context of his or her own cultural setting, and how their unique background integrates with the nation as a whole. The experts gathered at the ECHO Symposium on Culture & Change were unified in their support for a spectrum of specific additions or changes to existing and proposed legislation:

Standards & Evaluation:
•    Support academic standards that acknowledge Native history and outlook, for both classrooms and textbooks.
•    Support development and adoption of valid, reliable and culturally appropriate assessment tools to gauge success of all students.
•    Develop guidelines and methodologies to permit designation of elders and culture-bearers as Highly Qualified Teachers.

Staff support:
•    Support measures to increase staff continuity in schools serving primarily Native students, and percentage of Native teachers in schools with large Native populations.
•    Support professional education for administrators and teachers in public school systems relating to the needs of Native or culturally-disadvantaged students.

Program support:
•    Support language and cultural immersion programs.
•    Support programs that connect school and home experiences by encouraging meaningful parental, community and student involvement in curriculum development, teaching and research.
•    Support analytical and critical thinking through programs based in experiential learning, empirical observation and traditional place-based knowledge and methodology.
•    Develop and support successful art and culture programs, such as ECHO and Partners for Success, that partner with schools to provide integrated experiences that recognize and reward creativity, resiliency and strong identity through acquisition of cultural knowledge.

Symposium Program

Symposium Program

ORDER OF PRESENTATION                

(To browse video archive, click here)

10/6/2008


10/7/2008


10/8/2008

 

List of Speakers

List of Speakers

  •      Loren Anderson (Sugpiaq; Alaska Native Heritage Center cultural educator)
  •      M. Cochise Anderson (Chickasaw & Choctaw; cultural educator & performer)
  •      Jerry Bread, PhD (Kiowa; former director Oklahoma University American Indian Institute, American Indian Teachers’ Corps, Mentorship Program for Minority Students & Foundations in Native American Education Graduate Program)
  •      William Demmert, EdD (Tlingit & Oglala Sioux; former professor @ Western Washington University, Bellingham; first US Ass’t. Deputy for Native Education, Office of Education, HEW; Alaska Commissioner of Education; researcher in Culture-Based Education; principal investigator, NWREL)
  •      Keller George (Oneida; Oneida Indian Nation diplomat; Chairman, Oneida Indian Nation Gaming Commission; President, United South & Eastern Tribes)
  •      Willard Sakiestewa Gilbert, EdD (Hopi; Professor, Northern Arizona University; President, National Indian Education Association)
  •      John Grimes (Vice President for Institutional Advancement, Cook Inlet Tribal Council, Anchorage; former ECHO Project Director, Peabody Essex Museum; former Chair, Executive Committee of the ECHO national collaborative; former White House appointee to the Board of the Institute of American Indian Arts, Santa Fe)
  •      Dalton Henry (Choctaw; Commissioner of Education, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians)
  •      Lee Hester, PhD (Choctaw; Director, American Indian Studies and Pan-American Indian Humanities Center, University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma, Chickasha; Former President, Chair & Cultural Committee Chair of Oklahoma Choctaw Tribal Alliance)
  •      M.J. Longley, EdD (Iñupiaq; Former Chief Operating Officer, Cook Inlet Tribal Council; Former Director of Campus Diversity & Compliance, University of Alaska, Anchorage; entrepreneur)
  •      Spero Manson, PhD (Pembina Chippewa; Professor of Psychiatry & Director, American Indian & Alaska Native Programs, University of Colorado, Denver)
  •      Manulani Aluli Meyer, EdD (Native Hawaiian; Professor, University of Hawai’i, Hilo; Founding member Halau Wanana)
  •      Dan L. Monroe (Executive Director & CEO, Peabody Essex Museum)
  •      Pat Partnow, PhD (Vice President of Educational Programs, Alaska Native Heritage Center)
  •      Rona Rodenhurst (Cultural educator, Bishop Museum)
  •      Loriene Roy, PhD (Minnesota Chippewa; Professor, University of Texas, Austin; Immediate Past President, American Library Association)
  •      Madelyn Shaw (Chief Curator, New Bedford Whaling Museum)
  •      Judge Rae Nell Vaughn (Choctaw; Chief Justice, Choctaw Tribal Supreme Court, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians)

 

ECHO Collaborating Institutions

ECHO Collaborating Institutions

  •      Alaska Native Heritage Center, Anchorage, Alaska
  •      Inupiat Heritage Center, Barrow, Alaska
  •      Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawai‘i
  •      Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Choctaw, Mississippi
  •      New Bedford ECHO Project: New Bedford Whaling Museum and the Ocean Explorium at New Bedford Seaport, New Bedford, Massachusetts
  •      Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts.