andrekar at NCIDC.ORG
Mon Jun 12 16:39:30 UTC 2006
Posted: June 05, 2006 by: Jerry Reynolds WASHINGTON - A Senate
Committee on Indian Affairs oversight hearing on education May 25
raised the idea that Native-language immersion schools deserve
emphasis alongside the national No Child Left Behind program.
Educators throughout the nation are required to cope with the
quantitative Adequate Yearly Progress scores in reading and math that
assess a school's competence under No Child Left Behind. As a result,
said Ryan Wilson, president of the National Indian Education
Association, ''There's a huge push to advance only scientific
In the meantime, Wilson and other witnesses said, evidence mounts
that Native-language immersion programs are associated with stronger
student interest in learning and higher academic achievement. Kevin
Skenandore, acting director of the Interior Department's Office of
Indian Education Programs, said a survey of Interior's five best-
performing Indian schools, its five worst-performing schools and all
Hopi schools (they have all passed the AYP benchmarks) yielded
support for that position.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, drew from the educational experience
of her own sons to note that dual-language schooling can be a concern
to parents in the early school years. But later in the educational
process, she said, it becomes clear that immersion learning of a
second language early on pays off in better academic performance
across the board. As Wilson expressed it in his written testimony,
''National studies on language learning and educational experience
indicate the more language learning, the higher the academic
achievement. Solid data from the immersion school experience
indicates that language immersion students experience greater success
in school measured by consistent improvement on local and national
measures of achievement.''
Some of the May 25 testimony, as well as several examples Murkowski
marshaled from Alaska, suggested that tribal students in the usually
rural, often isolated environs of Indian country have a hard time
finding relevance in the conventional, Western-inflected pedagogy.
Though data on Native language immersion schools is still being
compiled, the theme of several witnesses was that learning a Native
language along with English may resolve the problem of educational
relevance for many students.
But Wilson added that while Native cultures and communities are
losing immersion-program resources, including many speakers, ''at
lightning speed,'' they are recovering their languages ''at horse-and-
buggy speed.'' He offered NIEA's support for several bills before
Congress that would encourage Native language immersion programs.
Senate Bill 2674, the Native American Languages Act Amendments of
2006, has been sponsored by Sens. Daniel Akaka and Daniel K. Inouye,
of Hawaii; Sen. Max Baucus, of Montana; and Sen. Tim Johnson, of
South Dakota, all Democrats. In the House, Republican Reps. Heather
Wilson, of New Mexico, and Rick Renzi, of Arizona, have offered House
Bill 4766, the Native American Languages Preservation Act of 2006.
Also in the House, Rep. Ed Case, D-Hawaii, has introduced H.R. 5222,
the Native American Languages Amendments Act of 2006.
S. 2674 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs,
and Ryan Wilson urged quick action. He added that it can bring about
''a new day'' in Indian education.
But much remains of the old days, including Indian test scores that
trail national averages and faltering marks on the AYP standard of
the No Child Left Behind initiative of President George W. Bush.
Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., vice chairman of the committee, pronounced
himself ''a little perplexed'' at Interior's response: a
''reorganization'' to increase the ratio of senior executives to
staff personnel. The reorganization is the target of a tribal lawsuit
announced one day before the hearing
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