The American Indian Education KnowledgeBase

Element 1: Foundations and Current Status of American Indian Education

Purpose: To ensure educators working with American Indian students are aware of past efforts at improving the academic achievement of these students, the limited success of these efforts, and current federally funded Indian education programs

Educators will:

  1. Understand past efforts to assimilate Indians through English-only assimilationist schooling and the opposition Indians may show to efforts at forced assimilation.
  2. Know the lasting effects of the Indian New Deal of the 1930s on American Indian education.
  3. Understand the effects of the Indian Self-Determination and Civil Rights movements on American Indian education.
  4. Understand the relationship between Indian tribes, states, and the federal government's Bureau of Indian Education.

Activity 1: Understand the History of American Indian Education

Activity 2: Understand the Current Status of American Indian Education

Element 2: American Indian Cultures

Purpose: Educators will understand the great cultural diversity among American Indians, as well as some of their commonalities. Educators will understand:
  1. What makes someone an American Indian, and what is a tribe today?
  2. What is an extended family?
  3. What is the significance of traditional American Indian values, such as humility, interconnectedness, and reciprocity?
  4. What should all Americans know about American Indians?

Activity 1: Be Aware of Tribal and Family Structures

Activity 2: Understand American Indian Traditional Tribal Values

Element 3: Understanding Your School and Community

Purpose: Assessing American Indian students' academic performance and working with local tribes and other Indian organizations are necessary to develop culturally responsive teaching methods. Educators should:
  • Examine current American Indian student test scores, attendance rates, and dropout rates;
  • Work with tribes and community organizations; and
  • Work with national American Indian organizations and the National Indian Education Association.

Activity 1: Take a Snapshot of Your School and Community

Activity 2: Work With and Involve Community and Parents

Task 1: Working with Tribal, Community, and National Organizations


Guideline: Many tribes have education departments to provide educational support for tribal members. Similarly, many school districts have Indian education committees comprised of parents and school personnel to improve the education of American Indian students. National organizations also provide support for educators of American Indian students through annual meetings and publications related to Indian education. These organizations can be helpful to parents, local educators, and state level education policy makers concerned with Indian education.

Handbook on Family and Community Engagement

Thirty-six of the best thinkers on family and community engagement were assembled to produce this Handbook. The authors tell what they know in plain language, succinctly presented in short chapters with practical suggestions for states, districts, and schools. The vignettes in the Handbook provide vivid pictures of the real life of parents, teachers, and kids.


Strategies for Community Engagement in School Turnaround

The Reform Support Network (RSN) conducted studies between April and August of 2013 of 11 States and districts, urban and rural, engaged in the communities surrounding low-performing schools.

Community Schools Initiative

As defined by the Coalition for Community Schools a community school is both a set of partnerships and a place where services, supports and opportunities lead to improved student learning, stronger families and healthier communities. One such initiative widely recognized for its effectiveness is Bridges to Success jointly sponsored by the Indianapolis Public Schools and the United Way of Central Indiana. The document describes the Bridges to Success initiative, offers several lessons learned and outcomes achieved.

American Indian Institute

Within the College of Continuing Education at the University of Oklahoma, "the American Indian Insititue (AII) provides expert technical assistance to American Indian, Alaska Native, and Canadian First Nation tribes and bands."


American Indian Science and Engineering Society

As noted at its website, "The American Indian Science and Engineering Society's (AISES) mission is to increase substantially the representation of American Indian and Alaskan Natives in engineering, science and other related technology disciplines."


Center for Indian Education

As noted at its website, "the Center for Indian Education is an interdisciplinary research and service organization housed in the College of Education at Arizona State University. The Center promotes studies in American Indian/Alaska Native policy and administration that contribute to the quality of scholarship and effective practices in education, professional training and tribal capacity building."


Corporation for National and Community Service - Indian Communities

This link to the Corporation for National and Community Service provides information about its Native American community initiative.


Indigenous Bilingual Education (IBE) Special Interest Group

As noted at its website, "the Indigenous Special Interest Group (SIG) of the National Association for Bilingual Education supports the teaching of tribal languages and the improvement of the education of American Indian students."


Johnson O’Malley Program

This link is to information about the Johnson O'Malley (JOM) program. It provides supplementary financial assistance for the specialized educational needs of Indian children.


National Congress of American Indians

As noted at its website, "the NCAI was founded in 1944 in response to termination and assimilation policies that the United States forced upon the tribal governments in contradiction of their treaty rights and status as sovereigns. NCAI stressed the need for unity and cooperation among tribal governments for the protection of their treaty and sovereign rights. Since 1944, the National Congress of American Indians has been working to inform the public and Congress on the governmental rights of American Indians and Alaska Natives."


National Indian Education Association

As noted at its website, "The National Indian Education Association is a membership based organization committed to increasing educational opportunities and resources for American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian students while protecting our cultural and linguistic traditions."


National Indian School Board Association

As noted at its website, "NISBA's mission is to support quality education in a safe environment from early childhood through life in accordance with the Tribe's needs for cultural and economic well-being in keeping with the wide diversity of Indian tribes and communities as distinct cultural and governmental entities."


Office of Indian Education

This link is to the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Indian Education website.


Tribal Education Departments National Assembly

As noted at its webiste, "Tribal Education Departments National Assembly (TEDNA) is a membership organization for the Education Departments of American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes."

Partnering with Diverse Community Members

This webinar explores the ways several schools have successfully cultivated and sustained partnerships with diverse families and community members. Our schools and districts throughout the country are experiencing dramatic shifts in demographics, and this diversity brings rich resources, but this can also be a source of misunderstanding and conflict among school staff, families, and other community stakeholders.  The webinar focuses directly on the topic of diversity and offered tools and guidance to develop rich partnerships with diverse families and community members. The session featured school and district strategies to address and embrace diversity in ways that enable partnerships among home, school, and community.

Element 4: Use Culturally Responsive Teaching Methodologies

Purpose: Some research suggests one reason for the achievement gap faced by American Indian students is cultural conflicts between American Indian homes and schools. Accordingly, culturally responsive teaching methodologies should address:
  • American Indian learning styles;
  • Indianizing curriculum;
  • Ethnomathematics and ethnoscience;
  • American Indian charter and magnet schools; and
  • Language revitalization.

Activity 1: Helping American Indian Children to Learn

Activity 2: Integrate American Indian History and Culture into School Curriculum

Activity 3: The Role of American Indian Charter and Magnet Schools

Activity 4: Teaching Indigenous Languages