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Blueprint Drafted for Research to Aid American Indian Education

By Mary Ann Zehr — August 30, 2005 2 min read
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Education researchers and Native American educators are drawing up a blueprint intended to guide research into interventions that will improve the academic achievement of American Indian students.

To obtain a copy of the research blueprint on American Indian education, e-mail Jonathan A. Levitt of the National Institutes of Health, at levittja@mail.nih.gov.

“Issues of language and culture make a difference in whether students are successful,” said William Demmert, an education professor at Western Washington University in Bellingham, who came up with the idea for the project. “We [Native Americans] believe research is important to understand what needs to be done.”

Mr. Demmert, who grew up in the Alaska Tlingit community, is a former director of education for the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs and a former education commissioner in Alaska.

He was among a group of about 50 researchers and American Indians who met here at the Department of Education on Aug. 17 to refine a draft that had been written after an initial meeting in March in Santa Fe, N.M. The project is being sponsored primarily by the Education Department and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, which is part of the National Institutes of Health.

The final blueprint is expected to be published in the fall 2006 issue of the Journal of American Indian Education, which is published by the Center for Indian Education at Arizona State University in Tempe.

The draft document calls for more studies using several national databases that for the first time have sufficient samples of American Indians to conduct fairly sophisticated statistical analyses of educational outcomes for that group. The results for the 2003 and 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress, for example, for the first time contain reliable information about Native American students, according to researchers.

Next Steps

The blueprint calls for studies of how indigenous communities are using technology to support education and how its use might be expanded. It recommends more study of after-school activities and on how the lives of American Indian students outside of school affect their education.

In addition, the blueprint spells out some “next steps” for American Indian education, such as developing more high-quality prekindergarten programs that include parent education. It calls for the identification, study, and description of programs that are closing the achievement gap between Native Americans and other students and wide distribution of information about the programs.

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