By Benjamin Yazza
Education in Indian Country was the primary focus of a panel at the National Native Media Conference on Friday. The panelists discussed the ways their groups and organizations are helping students succeed in school.
Phil Gover, who is of Paiute, Pawnee and Comanche descent, Founder of Sovereign Schools Project, said Oklahoma tribes have the capability of authorizing charter schools and how to set the performance reviews. His project aims to design charter schools with the involvement of the native community in Indian County.
“I don’t think every tribe should open a charter school in all communities across the Oklahoma,” Phil Gover said. “I would rather have tribes seriously think about what role they want to play in local education. Decide that for themselves, because that’s what sovereignty is, and go and do that.”
Brian Greseth, Principal and CEO of Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School, said his school’s primary purpose is to create a place where the Seminole Culture could be saved. It offers an immersion program completely taught in the Creek language.
“It’s a unique program because the parents have to be involved in that,” Greseth said. “They have to take a class where they have to come every week and learn Creek as well.”
Florida schools have an obligation to retain any students testing poorly during their yearly English Language Arts and Mathematics Assessment. Students are placed in levels from 1-5 based on their likelihood of excelling in the following grade.
Nadine Groenig, a member of the Pueblo of Laguna, Director of Indian Education at the Arizona Department of Education, said her office is working to find an alternative to assessing its students. For example, to assess the students’ knowledge of geometry, they could show how to design a Navajo rug using the geometric shapes or pottery design.
“The teachers we do have in our schools; we need to make sure are the most well-trained and qualified,” said Ahniwake Rose, a member of the Cherokee Nation and also of Muscogee descent, Executive Director of the National Indian Education Association.
“Working with folks like Phil, Nadine, and Brian to ensure the curriculum and the training and the professional development they’re receiving is grounded in the communities in which they are going to serve,” she said.
The National Indian Education Association produced a handbook to educate the public on culturally-based charter schools.
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