Portland State University’s Graduate School of Education has received a $1.2 million federal grant to recruit more American Indian students to its teacher preparation program.
The grant was awarded by the U.S. Department of Education office of Indian education, and will build on the university’s existing American Indian Teacher Program, which was established in 2011 with the help of a federal grant. The program provides tuition and covers fees for American Indian students who enroll in the school’s graduate teacher program. After graduation, participants must commit to teaching in a school that serves a “significant population of American Indian or Alaskan Native students.”
Nationwide, native teachers are underrepresented in schools. During the 2009-10 school year, American Indian or Alaska Natives made up less than one percent of the teachers enrolled in teacher preparation programs nationwide, even though about 1.3 percent of students in K-12 identify as native students. During the 2011-12 school year, less than one percent of teachers nationwide identified as American Indian or Alaska Native, a percentage has remained consistent over the past decade. A 2011 report in the Journal of Indigenous Research found that with few post-secondary programs graduating consistent numbers of American Indian teachers, “many reservation schools continue to hire temporary and sometimes poorly-prepared teachers to fill in the gaps.”
Data show that many American Indian students are not prepared for college and have lower college matriculation and completion rates than their peers. Only 53 percent of students at BIE schools, and 67 percent of Native American students at non-BIE schools graduate in four years, compared to 86 percent of white students. In May this year, only 12 percent of native students took a college-level Advanced Placement (AP) exam, compared to nearly 22 percent of all students. According to the National Indian Education Association, only 12 percent of Native young adults ages 25-34 have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 31 percent of all young adults nationwide.
Several teacher preparation programs across the country have launched program’s similar to Portland State’s, in an attempt to recruit and train more Native American teachers. The University of Wisconsin-Superior and Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College established a Native American teacher program in 2012, and Southeastern Oklahoma State University has received several federal grants to train more Native American teachers. Teach For America has also launched an initiative to recruit more Native teachers, especially in regions like South Dakota with high populations of Native students.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rural Education blog.