Posts Tagged ‘Education’

The number of high school graduates to take the Advanced Placement tests has increased in the past decade, but as a Huffington Post Education post points out, talented Native America students with the most “potential” aren’t taking the tests as much as they should.

    “AP potential” as defined by the College Board is a 70 percent or greater likelihood that a student will score a 3 (out of 5) or higher on an AP exam. The “potential” is calculated based on more than 2 million public school PSAT/NMSQT takers in the class of 2011.

But 74 percent of the “qualified” Native students didn’t take the tests. Huffington Post also noted that the College Board report finds that like Native students, most of the groups students not taking the tests are members of minorities.

    The debate surrounding AP courses and exams is divided. Students who take and perform well on AP exams often benefit in the college arena: high scores show admissions officers that a student has the ability to master college-level work. Many colleges also use AP exam scores as ways of placing students in advanced classes, placing them out of introductory courses or simply in exchange for college credit by placing students out of course and graduation requirements altogether.

Do you think the AP tests matter? Tell the Huffington Post through its quick poll.

Jenna Cederberg

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The town of Puvirnituq, in Nunavik. (Toronto Globe and Mail photo)

The town of Puvirnituq, in Nunavik. (Toronto Globe and Mail photo)

Turnover among non-Inuit teachers is as high as 75 percent at Puvirnituq’s Iguarsivik school in the Hudson Bay area of Nunavik, and teachers say they’re fed up.

Iguarsivik teacher Pierre-Luc Bélisle tells Jane George of the Nunatsiaq News, here, that two students punched him in the stomach last month, and were back in school two days later:

    “I thought there would be some consequence. I didn’t invent a story about a student. I am there to protect them, for their security, it’s my job,” said Bélisle, who felt his credibility as a teacher was put in doubt. “I think that’s unacceptable.”

    After learning nothing had been done, Bélisle, who had already filed a police report on the incident, went to a doctor who put him on a two-week leave.

Belisle, who arrived last year, plans to leave at school year’s end.

As George reports, 15 of the school’s 21 teachers are non-Inuit. The school has about 260 students from Grade 4 to Secondary 5. Turnover is about 75 percent among the non-Inuit teachers, at least five of whom have taken leave to deal with injuries and trauma, she writes. As George further reports:

    In recent years, Nunavik has experienced growing violence in its schools and against its students and teachers.

    Countless episodes of vandalism, harassment and bullying in school classrooms and playgrounds have gone largely unreported.

    The most horrific episodes include the shooting of a female teacher in Salluit in 2005 and the severe beating of a school principal in Kangiqsujuaq that same year. …

    Over the years, Iguarsivik has faced other waves of violence. In 1993 the school and community were wracked by a series of violent incidents, which saw one teacher assaulted and several teachers’ homes vandalized.

    Then, in 2006, student vandals ransacked the school, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.

The school now has video surveillance, security entrance cards for staff, and hall monitors.

“The people who are losing out are the students,” says one teacher. “If we can’t help them, if there’s no follow-up by the administration, no program in the school against violence, how can we help educate the future citizens of Puvirnituq?”

Gwen Florio

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School Superintendent Tim Mitchell is in the midst of a transition from the Chamberlain School District in South Dakota to one in Rapid City.

Each district has a significant population of Native students. So that transition hasn’t been helped by this week’s incident involving six Chamberlain students showing up for classes in homemade “White Pride” T-shirts that they said were a reaction to other students’ “Native Pride” garb.

As Kayla Gahagan of the Rapid City Journal reports here:

Chamberlain students in 'White Pride' T-shirts. (KELO-TV)

Chamberlain students in 'White Pride' T-shirts. (KELO-TV)

    Mitchell, who was selected as Rapid City’s new school superintendent in part for his successes in Chamberlain to bridge the gap between the Native and non-native community, scrambled to deal with the incident he described as “polarizing.”

    “It really ignited a firestorm,” he said.

    The T-shirts said “Cracker,” on the back, which is often used as a derogatory slang term for impoverished white people, and had large handrawn Celtic Crosses, a symbol often used by white supremacists. On the front of the shirts was the word “Peace” and a peace sign.

Mitchell says students and parents in Rapid City will likely view his handling of the Chamberlain incident – the students in the “White Pride” shirts were asked to change their shirts, but two refused and left for the day – as a litmus test. And he called the situation a “defining moment in my legacy here.”

Chamberlain serves serves the Crow Creek Sioux and Lower Brule Indian reservations. Many people from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation live and work in Rapid City. During Mitchell’s 15-year tenure at Chamberlain, Native American students’ test scores have improved, and he’s implemented cultural programs and curriculum to support them.

Mike Tyrell, executive director of the private St. Joseph’s Indian School, says that “we do have students offended by the whole situation.” But, he says, “Our idea is to work with kids to see this as a growth opportunity, instead of retaliation.”

Gwen Florio

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Some of the homemade "white pride" shirts. (KELO TV)

Here’s the entire story from the Associated Press:

CHAMBERLAIN, S.D. (AP) School officials in Chamberlain are investigating an incident in which six high school students wore homemade T-shirts proclaiming “White Pride World Wide.”

A derogatory slang term for impoverished white people also was on the back of each shirt, along with a symbol often used by white supremacists. On the front of the shirts was the word “Peace” and a peace sign.

Superintendent of Schools Tim Mitchell says officials are looking into why the students made the shirts. He says they violated the school’s dress policy. Two of the students changed their shirts and the other four left school.

One of them, 16-year-old Codie Novotny, says the shirts were a response to accusations by some American Indian students that white students and teachers are racist. She also says Indian students are allowed to wear clothing proclaiming “Native Pride.”

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Yolanda Page reads to her 4-year-old daughter, Kooper, from a book given to her by the StoryMakers program. (Tom Bauer/Missoulian)

Yolanda Page reads to her 4-year-old daughter, Kooper, from a book given to her by the StoryMakers program. (Tom Bauer/Missoulian)


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It’s a pretty simple equation: Kids who read – or are read to – early and often do better in school. But that can be hard to achieve in far-flung tribal communities, where poverty and geography conspire against it.

Enter – at least in Montana – the StoryMakers program, which puts children’s books in the hands of families in both reservations and rural communities.

“Buying books for your children in today’s economy, when people are struggling to keep the lights on, their houses warm, buy food … this gives them the opportunity to have something they can share with their child,” says Jeanne Christopher, director of Early Childhood Services for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes on Montana’s Flathead Indian Reservation.

As the Missoulian’s Vince Devlin tells it, here, Christopher is part of several “citizen teams” StoryMakers use to get a new slew of books in the hands of an average of 6,000 children in Montana every six months.

For more information on the StoryMakers program on the Flathead Indian Reservation, contact Jeanne Christopher or Malissa Morigeau at (406) 676-4509.

Gwen Florio

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File this one in the dog-bites-man category: There’s yet another delay in the quest for recognition by the Little Shell Band of Chippewa who live in and around Great Falls, Montana.

The Associated Press reports that the decision, expected today, has been delayed at least one more day. The tibe’s The 4,300 members first formally petitioned the Bureau of Indian Affairs for recognition back in 1978, but its original quest dates to the late 1860s, when Chief Little Shell and his band were excluded from a federal treaty signed with related tribes.

David Beauliue (Arizona State photo)

David Beauliue (Arizona State photo)

In other news from Indian Country, David Beaulieu, who once headed the Center for Indian Education at Arizona State, moves into a similar position at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he’s already a professor in the School of Education.

Here’s the entire text of the AP story:

MILWAUKEE (AP) – The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is establishing an institute for American Indian education.

It’s named for a Stockbridge Mohican woman Electa Quinney, who is also a Wisconsin educator.
David Beaulieu is a professor of educational policy and community studies in UW-Milwaukee’s School of Education. He will head The Electa Quinney American Indian Education and Policy Studies Institute, which is still in the planning stages.

He has previously served as president of the National Indian Education Association. He was also the director of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Indian Education from 1997 to 2001.

In a news release, he says the institute’s research, service and learning opportunities will focus on American Indians and on non-Indians interested in working with tribal communities.

Gwen Florio

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Clayville Elementary School in Scituate, R.I., where students have worked for nearly two decades on replicas of Native American and Pilgrim villages. (Scituate schools photo)

Clayville Elementary School in Scituate, R.I., where students have worked for nearly two decades on replicas of Native American and Pilgrim villages. (Scituate schools photo)

A few tore it apart. Many came together to rebuild it.

Each year in Scituate, Rhode Island, for nearly two decades now, schoolchildren add to two villages that aim to reproduce the ways Native American people and Pilgrims lived centuries ago. The sizeable project at Clayville Elementary School now covers an area more than half the size of a football field.

But this year, someone – two someones, according to authorities – decided it would be fun to undo that work. (See background here.)

School administrators described the damage, and its emotional impact, as “devastating.”

Now, the people of Scituate and surrounding communities have provided a counterweight to those discouraging moments. More than 100 volunteers are helping to rebuild the villages, trying to get them ready in time for next month’s Harvest Festival.

“It was amazing,” fourth-grade teacher Cindy Gould tells the Providence Journal, here. “Absolutely amazing, and so heartfelt.”

The wetus, or wigwams, in the Native American village will take some time to rebuild, the Journal reports. The volunteers rebuilt one of five wetus and got started on two more, and they also rebuilt the frame of the corn platform, where children in the village would have stood above the gardens to chase the crows away. The sweat lodge also awaits work.

Given the persistence of the volunteers, there’s no doubt the work will be accomplished.

They were just so diligent,” Gould says. “We actually had to chase some families out of the village. ‘We’ll stay until midnight,’ they said.”

Gwen Florio

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Brian Pipeon Head listens to speakers at the dedication ceremony for the newly renovated part of the Red Cloud Indian School. (Rapid City Journal photo)

Brian Pipeon Head listens to speakers at the dedication ceremony for the newly renovated part of the Red Cloud Indian School. (Rapid City Journal photo)


Students on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota celebrated the long-awaited upgrade to their high school with celebration and ceremony yesterday, with a flag song and a ribbon-cutting, smudgings and drums.

The $2.5 million addition and renovation to Red Cloud High School is part of a five-year plan for the school that includes increased graduation standards and an eventual overhaul and expansion of the Lakota language curriculum, according to this story in the Rapid City (S.D.) Journal.

Its centerpiece is a spacious student commons with an oversized stained-glass artwork by Angela Babby called “The Return of the White Buffalo Calf Woman.” The artwork was commissioned for the commons and celebrates White Buffalo Calf Woman, who the Lakota say brought them the sacred pipe and taught them many of their traditional ways.

As students cross from one section of the building into another, they walk under the painted words Woyuonihan – the Lakota phrase for “finding God in all things,” the story says. Less permanent reminders of the school’s Catholic and Lakota foundation show up in laminated neon sheets of paper translating common English words – the exit sign, bathrooms, doors – into the Lakota language to help students learn.

Norma Tibbitts, the chairwoman of the board of directors for the school, spoke directly to the hundreds of students and family members at yesterday’s ceremony.

“What an inspiration you are to me and my family and the thousands of people across the Black Hills and nation who hear the stories of success coming out of this school,” she said. “Do not take education for granted.”

Gwen Florio

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Chavis bookThe Washington Post’s education columnist, Jay Mathews, takes a look here at Oakland, Calif.’s American Indian Public Charter School and its controversial principal, Ben Chavis.

Controversial because of his tough-talking demeanor that one teacher likened, in this Oakland Tribune story, to that of basketball coach Bobby Knight. (That same story about Chavis was headlined, “Madman, Genius, or Both?”)

Here’s the thing about Chavis, who is Lumbee from North Carolina: He gets results. By one measure, the American Indian School’s middle school grades rank fifth among all of California’s middle schools and first in Oakland. That’s tough to ignore.

Chavis credits a method that keeps kids with the same teacher through several grades, as opposed to the standard method of having different teachers for different grades and subjects. There’s a school of thought that the best teachers are ones with expertise in their fields.

But the experience at the American Indian Charter School would seem to belie that. What do you think?

Oh, and if you want to know more, Chavis has a new book, “Crazy Like A Fox: One Principal’s Triumph in the Inner City,” written with Carey Blakely, the teacher who helped him start the school.

Gwen Florio

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Participants in an orientation for incoming University of Montana Native American students gather for a prayer on the UM campus. (Tom Bauer/Missoulian)

Participants in an orientation for incoming University of Montana Native American students gather for a prayer on the UM campus. (Tom Bauer/Missoulian)


Art Begay says his initial impression of the University of Montana was hardly welcoming.

“I felt like a number on a file somewhere,” he tells the Missoulian’s Chelsi Moy, here.

That was before he went through UM’s orientation program for Native students, which offers the school’s 500 Native students one consistent message:

“You have support and you are welcome here,” says Fredricka Hunter, director of American Indian Student Services. The program began with a prayer from Joe Pablo of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes , followed by welcoming remarks by UM President George Dennison and other school administrators.

The idea is to increase the university’s retention rate from Native students, many of whom come from extremely rural areas to the university in Montana’s second-largest city. Andrea Alstrom, a Yupik from Alaska, points out that her village of 800 people is less than one-tenth the size of Missoula. Luckily, she says, her boyfriend, Bryan Okakok, moved to Missoula with her and even came to the university orientation for support.

Both listened as Dennison spoke. “We want you to succeed,” the college president told them, “because then we succeed.”

Gwen Florio

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