UT - One key to improving American Indian students' achievement
is to teach them more about their cultures and languages, educators
told those participating in the third annual Native American Summit
Confederated Tribes of the Goshute to the San Juan School District
in southeastern Utah, tribes and school districts are using native
languages to better reach students.
In the Nebo
School District, three Navajo women have spent the past nine years
building a program that tutors American Indian students in academics
and teaches American Indian art and culture two evenings a week
and in the summer.
are encouraging, said Eileen Quintana, Title VII director for the
school district. Her comments came during the two-day conference
held in this eastern Utah community.
49 percent of American Indian students graduate from high school,
Nebo's graduation rate has risen from 37 percent to as high as 94
percent in 2006. The past two years, the graduation rate has been
88 percent, she said.
began with 99 students and now serves 265.
approach has been to go into the homes of American Indian students.
"I'm a simple
Navajo woman. You can't fix a problem unless you see, realistically,
what you're facing," she said.
Long, bilingual-education director for the San Juan School District,
said math and English scores rise as proficiency in Navajo increases.
"We're saying 'Hey, if language can do that, we're keeping it!."
It is now
the policy of the San Juan School Board that students will be taught
Navajo language and culture, he said.
council of the Consolidated Tribes of the Goshute, which has just
10 native language speakers living on the reservation 65 miles south
of Wendover, has made it part of the strategic plan to teach the
language to students, said Faye Ridesatthedoor, director of Goshute
"It is extremely
important to keep our language alive, to assert our identity," Ridesatthedoor
told the summit. "It's an essential aspect of who we are."