Fort Peck Tackles Turnover, FAS ProblemsMay 15th, 2000 | By tcj | Category: 11-4: All Our Children Are Special, Tribal College News
On the Fort Peck Reservation in northeastern Montana, 451 students are identified in the special education program in the five school districts. Teachers there struggle with behavioral problems caused by Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Effect (FAS/FAE). Fort Peck Community College hopes to help break the cycle of illiteracy and poverty by increasing the number of American Indian special education teachers and improving the educational services delivered to children with disabilities.
Through an assessment review of the school districts, Fort Peck Community College (FPCC) found a major disparity between the numbers of Indian and non-Indian teachers and aides. Nearly all (90 percent) of the 225 teachers were non-Indians while 90 percent of the 109 teacher aides were Indian. This indicated a need to professionalize the Indian staff, which could increase the number of Indian teachers and reduce the turnover rate.
In 1995, the tribal college initiated a teacher training program to offer special education professional development on the reservation. The goal is to substantially increase the number of Indian special education teachers and teacher assistants working on the reservation. In 1997, FPCC implemented the Paraprofessional Education Program to certify teacher aides and substitutes. Schools have said that teacher aides and substitute teachers need to be better prepared for the behavior problems they encounter. The program exposes students to various teaching methods and strategies for each exceptionality in hopes of reducing the turnover rate for the aides.
In 1998, the tribal college finalized an agreement with Montana State University-Billings to deliver the special education endorsement program via interactive television to the reservation. The program includes 37 required courses. All students selecting a teaching endorsement in special education must have a written plan of study approved by the department chair, according to Donna Buckles-Whitmer, distance learning coordinator at Fort Peck. She is also a member of the Alliance Project National Board.