AIMS will help define appropriate accountability measures

May 15th, 2004 | By | Category: 15-4: Ancient Cultures Modern Technology
By Gerald E. Gipp, Ph.D.

Gerald E. Gipp

Since the first tribal college – Diné College — opened its doors nearly 40 years ago, American Indian people have been defining, creating, and delivering higher education on our terms and in ways that are meaningful to us and our communities.

Our focus is holistic:  mind, body, and spirit. However, our tasks are daunting. Tribal colleges operate on budgets that are the lowest in U.S. higher education; our students are less prepared than others and many have families to care for; and our missions are broad.

This is the context in which tribal colleges began developing information technology (IT) infrastructures and applications.

The new American Indian Measures for Student Success initiative (AIMS) exemplifies how tribal colleges can use technology in locally-relevant ways to create change.  Recently awarded to AIHEC by Lumina Foundation for Education, the two-year project will help lay the foundation for systemic change in tribal college programs and ultimately increase American Indian participation and success in higher education.

To achieve these goals, tribal colleges will define and measure – for the first time — American Indian higher education success in ways that are meaningful to tribal people and the communities we serve.

AIHEC convened an advisory committee of national experts and tribal college leaders and held focus groups to help define relevant quantitative and qualitative indicator data for American Indian higher education success based on Native epistemologies.

We are working with these groups and nationally-known data specialists to develop a dynamic IT assessment instrument. It will help define relevant quantitative and qualitative indicators for American Indian higher education success. Our goal is to ensure that each tribal college has access to data that is truly meaningful to its community within two years.

Never before collected in this holistic manner, this data will be the foundation for informed and relevant systemic change.

With growing demands for accountability, initiatives like these are more important now than ever. The standards and tests used to measure performance at mainstream universities and in large urban areas often do not make sense for small tribal colleges on rural and remote Indian reservations.  Yet these are precisely the indicators we are being forced to report today.

We believe that to be truly accountable to federal funding agencies, private sector partners, and our own communities, we must define success in relevant ways. With technology that incorporates appropriate standards, we will be able to tell our own story.

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