17-4 “Reforming Our Schools, Native Style” Resource Guide

May 15th, 2006 | By | Category: 17-4: Reforming Our Schools, Native Style, Resource Guides
By John W. Tippeconnic, III (Comanche), Ph.D., and Susan C. Faircloth (Coharie), Ph.D.


There are approximately 624,000 American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) students enrolled in elementary and secondary schools in the United States; they account for 1% of the total public school enrollment (Freeman & Fox, 2005). Approximately 92% attend public schools while 7% attend schools operated or funded by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) (U.S. Department of the Interior, 2006).

The quality of education for AI/AN students in both public and BIA schools has been an issue of concern, which continues to this day. Although many students are successful in school, the reality is that too many are not.

Efforts to reform and make education for AI/AN students more relevant to their needs have fluctuated over the years and have gained momentum as Indian control of education becomes more of a reality.

Today, educational standards, public accountability, and student assessment are the focus as the provisions of such laws as the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 are implemented, particularly in the teaching of reading, math, and science.

This resource guide is intended to provide a listing of resources that can be used to improve the teaching and learning of AI/AN students in grades kindergarten through 12 so more of them can be successful and take advantage of higher education opportunities in both tribal and mainstream colleges and universities.


Beaulieu, D.L. (2000, Winter). Comprehensive reform and American Indian education. Journal of American Indian Education, 39(2), 2-17.

Beaulieu cites a number of factors that must be taken into account when attempting to reform schools attended by American Indian students. These include: staff turnover, student mobility, high dropout rates, limited knowledge of both the unique cultural and educational needs of Indian students, and effective models.

Bergstrom, A., Cleary, L.M., & Peacock, T.D. (2003). The seventh generation: Native students speak about finding the good path. Charleston, WV: ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools.

Stories from Native students focus on identity, school challenges, how they handle difficulty, how they make it in school, and the “Good Path” they follow in life. Issues of teaching, curriculum, and research are reflected in the student voices.

Boyer, P. (In Press). Building community: Reforming math and science education in rural schools. Fairbanks, AK: Alaska Native Knowledge Network.

Boyer examines the work of the National Science Foundation’s Rural Systemic Initiative (RSI), a 10-year project to reform and improve the quality of math and science instruction in rural schools, including those serving tribal communities. Three key strategies for reform are identified: (1) empower teachers to assume increased responsibility for research and innovation in the classroom; (2) make place-based education a focus of the curriculum; and (3) provide programs and services that support entire communities.

Cleary, L.M. & Peacock, T.D. (1998). Collected wisdom: American Indian education. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

This book is based on the collective stories of teachers and addresses topics such as cultural differences, being Indian in a non-Indian world, issues of Native languages, American Indian learning styles, literacy, and student motivation from an Indian cultural road map perspective. The target audience includes teachers of Indian children.

Demmert, W.G., Jr. (2001). Improving academic performance among Native American students: A review of the research literature. Charleston, WV: ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools, Appalachian Educational Laboratory.

This is an extension of Demmert and Towner’s earlier work, A review of the research literature on the influences of culturally based education on the academic performance of Native American students. A comprehensive review of literature identified approximately 100 research studies examining the academic performance of American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian students. Six themes emerged:

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