Tule River Tribe Establishes School

The first tribe-operated school has opened on the Tule River Indian Reservation.

Towanits School opened its doors to kindergartners through third graders on Aug. 17.

The school is located in the Towanits Education Center. There is a staff of four — one teacher per grade.

Dr. Jerry Livesely, Education director for the tribe, said they have 37 children enrolled in the school.

According to Frances Hammond, there have been schools on the reservation before, but this is the first tribe-controlled school and the first elementary school on the reservation in decades.

Livesley said the school is following the findings of a 2013 White House report on Native American Youth that found tribes needed to become more involved in the operation of their children’s education.

Also, said Livesley, “Research has showed Native American children have needs that are not addressed in public schools.”

He said his research found Native American kids in Porterville and Burton schools were falling short of bringing the Tule River students up to proficient status according to the State assessment tests (STAR). In fact, he said, the majority of students in the Porterville District were falling short of being proficient.

The Towanits School is structured differently from a public school, he pointed out, with much more active engagement and hands on learning. Also, the goal is to keep classes small, less than 15 students.

Another goal is to make Native American children proficient in English, math and reading.

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Tribal School Wins Its Own Waiver From No Child Left Behind

An excerpt:

A tribal school in Florida has been granted relief from the most onerous provisions of No Child Left Behind, making it the first tribal school in the nation to win its own waiver from the nation’s main federal education law.

The Miccosukee Indian School joins more than 40 states that have already won flexibility from No Child Left Behind by setting forth an alternative plan to hold their schools accountable. The Miccosukee school’s plan includes academic standards that cover not just math and English, but also the Miccosukee language and culturally relevant science.

It also aims to cut academic achievement gaps at the school in half over the next six years, which means its annual performance targets are different than Florida’s.

“Our standards include rigorous educational benchmarks and reflect the unique history, heritage, tradition, language, culture and values of the Miccosukee Indian Tribe and our people,” said Colley Billie, chairman of the tribe.

U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced the move Monday, saying it is a sign of the Obama administration’s broader commitment to ensuring that tribes have control of their children’s education.

“This is a historic day,” Jewell said during a ceremony at her office. “It’s all about tribal self-governance, self-determination, and it starts with making sure the people who care most deeply about these children are the people that are making decisions for them.”

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