9-4 Spring/Summer 1998 “Pre- K-12 Education” Resource Guide

May 15th, 1998 | By | Category: 9-4: Pre- K-12 Education, Resource Guides
By Mary Hermes

These articles provide a look at Indian Education as it has been defined by the policy of self-determination and legislated by the Indian Education Act of 1972 and the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975. I selected articles and books for the attention they focus on research and/or policy concerning Native American-controlled education. Two articles are comprehensive review articles (Swisher and Dehyle, 1997, and Lomawaima, 1996). Rehyner, 1993, and Hampton, 1993, write policy-oriented reviews that give specific suggestions for direction. One book tells the story of teachers of Native students across the United States (Peacock and Miller-Cleary, 1998), and one book (Barman, 1987) is an edited collection of essays from Canada. One very thick research article has been included that studies drop-outs and Navajo culture (Deyhle, 1995). And last, to provide depth, I have included two articles that describe best practices (Watahomigie, 1994, and Dick, 1994).

Adapted from a comprehensive literature review using the Education Resources Information Clearinghouse (ERIC) data base in the summer of 1997, this guide represents only a fraction of the research.

Barman, J., Herbert, Y.,  and McCaskill, D. (Eds.) (1987). Indian education in Canada. Volume Two: the challenge. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.

Includes discussion, analysis, and evaluation of progress toward the goal of self-determination in Native education across Canada since 1972 (the year of the government’s self-determination legislation for Native people). This volume includes case studies from Indian-controlled schools; documentation of the creation of two Indian-controlled school boards; and discussion of the role of elders, tradition, and the importance of indigenous language. Control over education is seen as “at the heart” of redefining political, economic, and social priorities for Native people and a key part of a larger revitalization movement of indigenous people around the world.

Deyhle, D. (1995). Navajo youth and Anglo racism: Cultural integrity and resistance. Harvard Educational Review, 65 (3), 403-444.

Drawing on theories of cultural discontinuity while keeping in mind the context of discrimination and assimilation, Deyhle demonstrates the complexity of culture and identity for Navajo youth. This study is valuable and brilliant for its depth as well as breadth. She interviewed over 268 Navajo youth over a period of 10 years, as well as spending summers living in the community, and conducted another 100 informal interview with Anglos from the border town. Deyhle looks closely at culture, schooling, and economic opportunity. She concludes that Navajo definitions for success are independent of Anglo values. Having a base in traditional Navajo culture is necessary for maintaining the personal integrity to withstand racism. In this case, resistance (to assimilation) is not futile; resistance to school assimilation leads to better chances of economic success.

Deyhle, D. and Swisher, K. (1997). Research in American Indian and Alaska Native education: From assimilation to self-determination. In M. W. Apple (Ed.), Review of research in education (pp. 113-194). Washington, D.C.: American Educational Research Association.

Reviewing 60 years of educational research, Swisher and Deyhle provide readers with an extremely rigorous review of literature as well as a valuable reference. In this 81-page article, a clear sense of progress towards self-determination in research is conveyed. Early research was based on the theory that Indian students suffered from deficits, as substantiated by intelligence testing and the theory of cultural deprivation. Prior to the 1960s, the norm or standard was often non-Native peoples. The broader social context of oppression was not considered a factor in the failure of Native students. In short, the idea of assimilation undergirded explanations of failure. Categories generated by such early research are prominent to this day. For example “during the years 1961-1991, the Journal of American Indian Education published 78 studies on achievement on intelligence tests and the Indian student,” according to Deyhle and Swisher.

The second section of the article is devoted to research that challenges the assimilation assumption. This research includes cultural discontinuity, communication differences, and learning styles. Last, Swisher and Deyhle focus on work that is “community based.” Local knowledge, best practices, research methods, and indigenous languages within the context of self-determination are discussed at length.

Dick, G.,  Estell, D., and MacCarty, T. Saad Naakih Bee’enootiilji Na’alkaa: Restructuring the teaching of language and literacy in a Navajo Community school. Journal of American Indian Education 33(3), 31-46.

Describes the successes, failures and struggles of the Navajo Community school at Rough Rock. One of the first tribal-community schools, Rough Rock is one of the schools most frequently researched and written about. Instituting a Navajo language teacher training program early on has provided this school with a stable base of elementary teachers who are Navajo speaking and community members. This article describes in detail one year of change and evolution in the teaching of language, literacy, and bi-literacy at Rough Rock.

Volunteer study groups of teachers led the effort to develop curriculum and text in both English and Navajo. Teachers recognized the need to develop their own assessments and moved away from standardized testing to portfolio assessment in evaluating students’ progress. The article ends with a summary of four necessary conditions for successful change: stability of school staff; funding; collaboration with outsiders who have expertise; teachers who both develop and implement the program.

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