Via Cherokee tribes work to keep language alive for new generations

The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina are working to preserve the Cherokee language for future generations.

Only about 3,000 Cherokee Nation citizens speak the language on a regular basis, language program manager Roy Boney Jr. told The Wall Street Journal. That’s less than 1 percent of the tribal population.

“No one under 50 is fluent in Cherokee anymore,” Boney told the paper.

The Eastern Band, a much-smaller tribe, counts upwards of 400 fluent speakers, or less than 3 percent of the population. A successful immersion school, though, is helping to turn those numbers around and a tribal member and a tribal employee have developed software to teach the language to others.

“If their methods were so good, why do we keep losing the language?” tribal member John Standingdeer Jr. told The Journal, referring to other methods that he believes have failed.

Read the entire article in the Wall Street Journal, here.

Via Crisis Hits Oklahoma Classrooms with Teacher Shortage, Quality Concerns

An excerpt:

Oklahoma’s deepening teacher shortage has education officials trading in their “Help Wanted” signs for ones with a more urgent message: “Help Needed NOW.”

As schools ring in the start of a new academic year, administrators are desperately trying to fill teacher vacancies amid a scarcity of applicants.

Evidence of that growing desperation abounds through the number of emergency certification requests at the Oklahoma State Department of Education and through vacancies still advertised by districts.

Since July, the state has received 526 requests for emergency teaching certificates — already exceeding the 506 it received in all of 2014-15. Those certificates allow those who haven’t completed basic higher education and training requirements to enter the classroom right away.

“The teacher shortage is at a point of crisis,” said state Superintendent Joy Hofmeister. “Emergency certifications continue to skyrocket, and class sizes continue to increase. Until we can attract and retain teachers in our state, education will suffer.”

Tulsa Public Schools, which had 568 teachers — or 20 percent — of its certified teaching positions exit over the past 14 months, has resorted to the measure at a record high rate. District officials say they have submitted 59 emergency certificate requests. Records from the state show 40 of those among the total of 526 already processed.

Today, low teacher morale in Oklahoma and better salary and benefits in surrounding states are making it harder for districts to compete for recent college graduates and retain experienced teachers. The state also averaged 3,000 annual teacher retirements in each of the past five years.

The teacher shortage is spinning off a complex web of devastating consequences in course offerings for students and working conditions for the educators left behind.

Tulsa’s new superintendent, Deborah Gist, said she didn’t fully appreciate all of the implications when she left her position as Rhode Island education commissioner to come here in July.

“Not only do we need a teacher in every classroom, we also need experienced and stable teams of teachers in our schools,” Gist said. “TPS has consistently had around 50 teacher vacancies at the start of school and even through our school year for many years now. So to start the year with a full complement of teachers is an enormous challenge. We have worked tirelessly and creatively to ensure every student in our district has a teacher on the first day of school and throughout the year.”

Three days before the start of school, the TPS website still lists more than 150 teaching positions for applications because hiring needs persist all year. Another 100 support jobs, such as janitors and classroom aides, were also posted.

Frustration leads to retirement

According to the Oklahoma Teachers’ Retirement System, nearly 15,000 teachers retired over the past five years, including 1,100 early retirees. Public schools reported 1,000 unfilled teacher vacancies in August 2014, and over the course of the academic year, another 3,090 teachers retired.

Of last year’s retirees, 238 left early, including Lynetta Tart, who had taught for 39 years at TPS before retiring in June, shortly before her 61st birthday.

“I decided to retire because I was tired of going to meetings,” she said.

In early July, one of Gist’s first actions as Tulsa superintendent was to send a letter asking more than 900 teachers who had left in recent years to consider returning. A spokesman said that although the effort produced about 35 “leads,” none resulted in new employment contracts.

To read the entire article, click here.

Via Honoring Cultural Traditions of Native Graduates

To view previous TEDNA articles and links about eagle feathers and graduation this year, click here, here, here, here, here, and here.

NARF, California Indian Legal Services and the ACLU of CA wrote a letter together for the Superintendent of Clovis Unified School District on behalf of Christian Titman.

An excerpt:

One of the proudest moments in my life was graduating with my master’s in education administration from Oglala Lakota College and receiving an eagle feather for achieving a lifelong dream. That was until 2012, when our oldest son graduated from high school, and my wife and I had the honor of tying his eagle feather on him. And we are looking forward to proudly supporting our youngest son when he graduates from high school in 2017.

Eagles are known by many tribes to be a messenger to the Creator, symbolizing bravery, respect, personal achievement and honor. Eagles are protected under two federal laws: the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. These prohibit the possession, use and sale of eagle feathers and parts, with an explicit exception for American Indians who are enrolled members of federally recognized tribes. American Indian tribal members may wear feathers legally in their possession or utilized to create religious or ceremonial items for personal or tribal use.

This month, thousands of American Indian students across the country are graduating from high school and college, fulfilling a dream for themselves and an honor for their families. And with only 49 percent of Native students graduating from high school nationwide, this is a moment to be celebrated and cherished. Honoring our graduating Native students who attend the 187 tribal schools across 23 states has been a longstanding cultural tradition. Native graduates receive their eagle feathers and plumes and proudly wear them on their graduation caps or tied in their hair. This is a part of who we are and continues to affirm our identity and connection to our ancestry and culture.

To read the entire article, click here.


Via TurtleTalk: Magistrate Decision in Griffith v. Caney Valley Public Schools

In which the student is denied the right to wear an eagle feather on her graduation cap. Her graduation from Caney Valley Public Schools, which is just north of Tulsa, is Thursday, May 21, 2015.


The School demonstrated that the graduation ceremony is a formal ceremony and that the unity of the graduating class as a whole is fostered by the uniformity of the caps which are the most prominently visible part of the graduation regalia viewed by the audience to the graduation. Prohibiting decoration of any graduation cap by any student for any purpose serves these legitimate interests. Based on the application of these established principles the undersigned finds that Plaintiff has not demonstrated a substantial likelihood of success on her First Amendment Free Exercise of Religion claim.

Plaintiff’s Motion and Brief

Defendant’s Motion and Brief

20. Objection to Report and Rec (5-20-15)

21. Defs Resp to Obj to RR (5-20-15)

ED Week: Congress Approves Budget Deal That Puts Brakes on Sequestration

Here. An excerpt:

School districts chafing under the across-the-board federal cuts known as sequestrationare about to get  a reprieve: The U.S. Senate gave final approval, on a vote of 64 to 36 Wednesday to a broad budget deal that would ward off the vast majority of the impending cuts to K-12 education spending—and nearly every other federal program—for the next two years.

. . . .

School districts say the fiscal breathing room can’t come soon enough. “At least we’re hopeful now, and we haven’t been hopeful for a while,” said David Pennington, the superintendent of the 5,400-student Ponca City school district in Oklahoma. He said the district—which has a high population of Native American students from a nearby reservation and receives federal Impact Aid to make up for lost tax dollars—was largely able to avoid layoffs last year. But, he said, “we weren’t going to be able to do that going forward.”