From the Cradle to the Career: Improving Education for American Indians and Alaska Natives
On December 2, 2011, at the third White House Tribal Nations Conference, President Obama announced his Executive Order on Improving American Indian and Alaska Native Educational Opportunities and Strengthening Tribal Colleges and Universities. Last week, I had the privilege of joining the Department of Education and the Department of Interior at a roundtable on the Squaxin Island Reservation in Shelton, Washington which concluded a series of regional Tribal Leader Education Roundtables that will help guide the implementation of the Executive Order.
The Executive Order focuses on lowering the dropout rate of Native students, furthering tribal self-determination and ensuring that students have an opportunity to learn their Native languages and histories while receiving complete and competitive educations that prepare them for college, careers, and productive and satisfying lives. To further these objectives for all American Indian and Alaska Native students, the Executive Orders promotes:
- Early learning, which includes Native language immersion programs,
- Increased access to support services for college, career and civic involvement,
- Improved access to quality culturally-aware teachers through effective recruitment and retention, particularly through Tribal Colleges and Universities,
- Creating a positive school climate to reduce dropout rates and ensure Native students are prepared for college and careers at the time of graduation,
- Providing opportunities for students who have dropped out to re-enter and obtain degrees, certificates or industry recognized credentials, and
- Strengthening Tribal Colleges and Universities to prepare Native students for productive careers upon graduation.
At last week’s listening session, representatives from the Department of Education, Department of the Interior and the White House heard from tribal leaders, educators and the public on a wide range of the issues affecting American Indian and Alaska Native students. Among the primary topics of discussion were teacher recruitment and retention, Native language training, prevention of bullying, improved mentorship, private partnerships, the importance of having access to broadband service for distance learning and the benefits of vocational training for Native students, among many other points. While this round of tribal leader education roundtables has been completed, there is still an opportunity to submit comments by writing to email@example.com. The input of tribal leaders, educators, parents, students and others throughout Indian Country is essential to the development and implementation of administration priorities.
While in Washington State for the roundtable, I also had the pleasure of meeting a wonderful group of students representing over 60 different tribes at Chief Leschi Elementary School in Puyallup, Washington. Thank you to the students and faculty at Chief Leschi for welcoming me onto your beautiful campus!
Charlie Galbraith is an Associate Director in the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.