Native Village 
Youth and Education News

September 2013

Grants pave way for Native American teachers
Condensed by Native Village

Native American students face a dropout rate of over 12% — twice the rate of their white peers and higher than that for black and Asian students. Part of the problem is due to high teacher turnover rates and few native teachers.

The Indian Education Professional Development Grant seeks to change that. It enables Native Americans to earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree and become teachers or administrators.

From 2007 - 2012, the U.S. Department of Education and Office of Indian Education awarded 45 IEPD grants. Thanks to the program, 373 people have completed their 4-year education. These graduates pay back the grant by teaching in reservation schools or public schools with large American Indian populations.

There are 183 schools on 64 reservations nationwide, according to the Bureau of Indian Education. “Often we find native paraprofessionals serving in classrooms with non-native teachers,” said David Thomas from the Department of Education. Native teachers can act as role models for students, he adds.

Wyoming's Wind River Tribal College is one of 45 colleges to receive the grant.   Marlin Spoonhunter, WRTC president, believes more native teachers are needed to keep native students in school.

“They understand our children more—they live here, grew up here, and went to school here, too," he said. "They can implement our culture, language, and history into the learning.”

Wind River Tribal College has twice received an IEPD Grant. The school partnered with the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh to provide the education courses, both online and on the Wind River campus. Participating students, who must have an associate’s degree to qualify, spend about 2 ½ years in the program. They can stay on the reservation and keep their jobs because the program provides tuition, books, and monthly living expenses and child-care costs.

Currently, two groups of 12 students are in the school's program. The first cohort will graduate in December with bachelor’s degrees in early childhood education.

Tribal colleges and other institutions of higher education can apply for the grant. So can individual tribes, Indian organizations and local education agencies that partner with a degree-granting entity.

The grant provides roughly $10,000,000 total per year for these institutions.

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