"If you look back through the history of Alaska Natives in the state's education system, you will find that culture and language were systematically removed from children in the classrooms, in well-intentioned attempts to prepare them for life in Western society.
Today, Alaska Native student performance clearly reflects the cumulative effects of those cultural disconnects. What is missing in the classroom is the wealth of knowledge embedded in the history, languages and cultures of Alaska Native students. What is missing has the power to make education relevant and promote better achievement.
Look at the American Indian and Alaska Native students we're pushing out of our schools, and the truth is alarming. Our students are leaving because they cannot relate to the classroom content. Their classroom instruction isn't relevant to their day-to-day lives. It's clear that this educational system still has not learned the teaching strategies that work best with Alaska Native students.
But other options exist. In Juneau, we have an example of success. At the Yakoosgé Daakahídi Alternative High School, the small student body receives individualized support from staff and has a role model in their Alaska Native principal, Ronalda Cadiente. Students are organized into small communities, and instruction is based in culture. Students benefit from flexible school schedules that accommodate work and family commitments. The school environment fosters success by working within the family and community constraints that too often hinder progress. More than a third of the school's largely Alaska Native student body receive a diploma each year."
Get the Story:
Shirley Tuzroyluke: Native students need schools that acknowledge culture
(The Anchorage Daily News 11/17)
Alaska's dropout rate double US average
(The Anchorage Daily News 11/16)
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