More Native Americans are joining Teach For America in South Dakota, according to a recent article by the Associated Press.
The organization, which primarily recruits recent college graduates to teach in low-performing schools, has been in South Dakota since 2004. That year, only 5 percent of TFA’s teachers identified as natives. In the newest group of teachers, who will begin this fall, nearly 20 percent are natives.
The increase is due to efforts by the organization’s Native Alliance Initiative, which launched in 2010 to recruit more tribal members to the classroom. During the 2013-14 school year, 670 TFA teachers worked with Native children in New Mexico, Hawaii, Oklahoma, and South Dakota.
Recently, TFA joined the American Indian Higher Education Consortium and the National Indian Education Association in endorsing a bill that would create a Commission on Native Children, which will study supports available for Native children and develop a plan for additional wrap-around services.
Robert Cook, the senior managing director of the Native Alliance Initiative and a member of the Oglala Sioux, said that a commission is necessary to study the variety of factors that impact the well-being of Native children. “There’s so many issues and challenges today that are unique to our native children that just simply weren’t prevalent during [past studies],” Cook said. Some of those issues, he added, include the transition to new, nationwide common-core standards, and the emphasis on technology in schools. “This commission is really important because it will dive into the contemporary issues with an understanding of historical issues that face our native children,” Cook said.
A recently released federal plan calls for changes to the Bureau of Indian Education, including a reorganization of the bureau, aimed at improving native schools.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rural Education blog.