The Common Core Initiative, Education Outcomes, and American Indian/Alaska Native Students: Observations and Recommendations

Many educators and policymakers in American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities are concerned that the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) will fall short of their goal to ensure the preparation of all students for college and/or career.

This paper explores how the CCSS could affect AI/AN students, and examines how to best implement the standards to increase the likelihood for college and career success for this group of students. Specifically, the paper describes:

  • The importance of understanding the diversity among AI/AN communities
  • Why today’s education reforms might be viewed as forced assimilation
  • How previous education reforms have failed
  • What needs to happen for the CCSS to work
  • The impact of No Child Left Behind

In addition, the paper includes recommendations for how local and state education agencies, researchers, and policymakers can best proceed to help prepare AI/AN students to succeed in college and/or career.

To view the report, click here.

From Technology in Education: An Overview

An excerpt:

Technology is everywhere in education: Public schools in the United States now provide at least one computer for every five students. They spend more than $3 billion per year on digital content. Led by the federal government, the country is in the midst of a massive effort to make affordable high-speed Internet and free online teaching resources available to even the most rural and remote schools. And in 2015-16, for the first time, more state standardized tests for the elementary and middle grades will be administered via technology than by paper and pencil.

To keep up with what’s changing (and what isn’t), observers must know where to look. There’s the booming ed-tech industry, with corporate titans and small startups alike vying for a slice of an $8 billion-plus yearly market for hardware and software. Much attention is also paid to the “early adopters”— those districts, schools, and teachers who are making the most ingenious and effective uses of the new tools.

To read the entire article, click here.

From The Rapid City Journal: Adding Native American Education Part of State Ed Plan

PIERRE | For the first time in South Dakota, courses about Native Americans will be among the required subjects schools must teach.

The state Board of Education adjusted the schedule for reviewing teaching standards Thursday and added Native American education for all as a subject for the first time.

The revised schedule still calls for the board to adopt any revisions in English language arts in 2018, but in the spring rather than the summer, and to adopt any revisions in math in 2019, again in the spring rather than the summer.

State law requires four public hearings before the board can adopt standards or changes in standards. The standards are used in grades three through eight and grade 11 for testing student achievement. Further details of the requirement for Native American coursework were not discussed Thursday.

Some opponents of the Common Core standards that are now in place have claimed the schedule changes are an attempt to work away from Common Core, but Schopp said after the board meeting Thursday that is not the case.

To read the entire article, click here.

The Common Core Initiative, Educational Outcomes and American Indian/Alaska Native Students: Observations and Recommendations

This monograph explores the ways in which large-scale school reform efforts play out in American Indian/Alaska Native communities and schools, starting from a historical and cultural perspective, and focusing on the translation of research into concrete steps leading to American Indian/Alaska Native student academic success and personal well-being.

For more information, click here.

Via Native Math

A unique approach to math helps boost achievement for American Indian children—and it shares striking parallels with the Common Core.

An excerpt:

On one of the last days of school at Wyoming Indian Elementary School in the spring, Cheryl Williams is playing a game of “8-plus” with Atsa, a first-grader with a round, reflective face under a fuzzy thatch of black hair. These sessions are often playtime for Atsa, but they are always serious for Williams, a teacher who works one-on-one with young children to jump-start their stalled mathematical thinking.

The game is simple. Atsa throws a die with the numerals four through nine on its six faces.

“Seven,” he says.

Next, Atsa must calculate 8+7. Solving such an equation might seem simple, but Williams watches to see how he addresses the problem. It’s the boy’s strategy, not his answer, that will tell her what kind of progress he’s making.

Before he started working with Williams, Atsa would have approached the 8+7 problem by looking around for objects to count. If he didn’t have enough fingers, he may have counted objects lying on the table. Educators might reason he did the math this way because he lacked what the Common Core standards call “number sense,” the notion that eight is composed of smaller numbers like 4+4 or 5+3. Without the ability to “compose” and “decompose” numbers, experts say, children struggle with large quantities and fall behind on the path to understanding division, decimals, fractions, and percentages.

Atsa and Williams have grown close after spending half an hour together every day for a semester. They lean in over the small table like collaborators, if not playmates. He looks at her for approval. She snakes her arm around the back of his chair as he solves the equation on a wooden rack that holds two rows of beads, half of them red and the other half white. The apparatus, which looks a bit like an abacus, is designed to help children understand that numbers from 11 to 19 are made up of tens and ones—a concept integral to number sense, as laid out in the Common Core first-grade standards.

Atsa counts out eight of the 10 beads on the upper rod, sliding them to one side. Then he moves seven beads into place on the lower rod. From there, in an effort to see if Atsa can form numbers from tens and ones, she instructs him to swap the beads. He adds two to the first row and, in turn, takes two away from the one below: 10 on top and five on the bottom.

“How many is eight and seven?” Williams asks.

Atsa considers the bead rack: “15,” he answers.

Dozens of exercises like this one, used in individual sessions and in classrooms at schools like Wyoming Indian, seem as though they were designed to teach to the Common Core standards, which have been rolled out in most states.

But they weren’t. This teaching approach, called “Strength in Numbers,” was developed a decade before work even started on Common Core. First People’s Center for Education, a small nonprofit based in Sheridan, Wyoming, trains teachers at poor, mostly Native American schools throughout the West, like this one on the vast Wind River Indian Reservation. And although the sample size is small—Wyoming Indian Elementary enrolls about 350 students including prekindergarten—the program’s results have been striking.

Before 2006, when First People’s came to Wyoming Indian Elementary, less than a quarter of the school’s third-graders were rated “proficient” or higher on the state’s standardized math test. Since then, more than 60 percent have achieved this benchmark annually (with the exception of one year after the state increased the test’s rigor). Amid widespread debates over the Common Core’s long-term benefits, a handful of isolated, American Indian schools may offer an example of how a Common Core approach can work.

To read the entire article, click here.