English-Language Learners

Native American English-Learners Target of $3 Million in Federal Grants

By Corey Mitchell — September 20, 2016 2 min read
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The U.S. Department of Education will award nearly $3 million in grants to help support Native-American students who are identified as English-language learners.

The department will award $2.996 million to schools and tribes in eight states—Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, and Oklahoma—to support teaching and learning and study of Native American languages including those spoken by Native Hawaiian, Native American Pacific Islanders and Alaska Natives.

Awarded as part of the Native American and Alaska Native Children in School Program, the funding aims to develop the English proficiency of the participating students while also promoting the preservation of their native languages. Though many of the Native students use English as their primary language, many districts label them as ELLs because they need helping reaching proficiency in academic English—the formal written and spoken language of the classroom that allows students, for example, understand mathematical word problems

Research shows that language barriers are a consistent roadblock to high school graduation for American Indian and Alaska Native students. A 2010 report from the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at the University of California, Los Angeles found that early acquisition of English and proficiency in students’ native languages as well as English increase the likelihood of Native American students graduating.

“These grants represent an important opportunity to increase support for our Native children to develop capabilities in more than one language by learning English and their Native language, preserve their cultural heritage through language learning activities and engage families and communities in multi-generational learning and the education of their children,” U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. said in a statement.

The department projects the funds will serve about 8,000 Native American and Alaska Native students over the course of five years at all grade levels, from prekindergarten through 12th grade.

The schools and tribes could receive as many $15 million over the next five years as part of the grant program. The grant recipients are: the Fairbanks Native Association and Lower Kuskokwim School District in Alaska; Hunters Point Boarding School, Inc. in Arizona; Chief Tahgee Elementary Academy in Idaho; Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians in Minnesota; Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians; Rocky Boyd School Districts 87- J & L in Montana; Farmington Municipal Schools in New Mexico; and Grand View School and Osage County Interlocal Cooperative in Oklahoma.

The department has awarded about $40 million to schools and tribes since the program’s launch in 2008.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.