American Indian Education KnowledgeBase

The American Indian Education KnowledgeBase is an online resource to aid education professionals in their efforts to serve American Indian students and close the achievement gap American Indian students have faced in public, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and other schools.

This KnowledgeBase is currently being updated to reflect recent changes under federal law. The current version is provided for your reference as much of the information may still be relevant.

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 2: Communicate With and Involve Parents

Guideline: Parental involvement has been demonstrated to be an essential element of a successful school. The No Child Left Behind Act calls for parents to be involved in their child's education, as well as mandating specific communications from schools to parents. Educators need to be cognizant of how they communicate with and involve native students' parents in their childrens education.

Parent Guidance Handbook 2003

"This Parent Handbook is provided by the Bureau of Indian Affairs as a tool for all Native American parents of school-aged children as an aid in advocating for their children's education. This manual serves as a template for each tribe and state to adapt to their specific needs, concerns, and culture."

Working Together: An Education Handbook For Alaskan Native Families

Written with Alaskan Native families as its audience this resource's content may be useful for other communities as well.

Working Together: School-Family-Community Partnerships

Developed for New Mexico school communities, "this Toolkit is designed to support the development of school, family and community partnerships with the ultimate goal of helping all children and youth succeed in school and in life." Its six modules are organized around six types of family and community involvement. Though created with New Mexico communities in mind, this resource's content may be useful with any school community.

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.

The Dual Capacity-Building Framework for Family-School Partnerships

The U.S. Department of Education has developed a Family and Community Engagement Framework for families, schools, districts, states, and the broader communities to develop partnerships in education. This document describes strategies for building, cultivating, and sustaining positive relationships with families. The goal of these partnerships is to to build capacity for student achievement and school improvement.

Parent/Family Involvement Policy

The Every Student Succeed Act (ESSA) requires schools receiving Title I funds to develop policies addressing their parental involvement program. This document offers guidance and a model policy from the National PTA's National Standards for Parent/Family Involvement Program as a resource to assist schools in developing such a policy.

Helping Your Child

This link is to the U.S. Department of Education's Helping Your Child publication series. As noted at its website, "These booklets feature practical lessons and activities to help their school aged and preschool children master reading, understand the value of homework and develop the skills and values necessary to achieve and grow."

National Parent Teacher Association

As noted at its website, "As the largest volunteer child advocacy association in the nation, National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) provides parents and families with a voice to speak on behalf of every child. The PTA provides parents tools to help their children be successful students." Local parent/teacher organizations may be useful sources of financial and non-financial resources.

School Climate and Discipline

This link to the U.S. Department of Education website provides resources addressing school climate and discipline. As noted on the website, "The guidance package is a resource resulting from a collaborative project—the Supportive School Discipline Initiative (SSDI)—between ED and DOJ. The SSDI, launched in 2011, addresses the school-to-prison pipeline and the disciplinary policies and practices that can push students out of school and into the justice system. The initiative aims to support instead school discipline practices that foster safe, inclusive and positive learning environments while keeping students in school." 

The Department of Education news releases explains that the resource package consists of four components:

  • "the Dear Colleague guidance letter on civil rights and discipline, prepared in conjunction with DOJ, describes how schools can meet their legal obligations under federal law to administer student discipline without discriminating against students on the basis of race, color or national origin;

  • the Guiding Principles document draws from emerging research and best practices to describe three key principles and related action steps that can help guide state and local efforts to improve school climate and school discipline;

  • the Directory of Federal School Climate and Discipline Resources indexes the extensive federal technical assistance and other resources related to school discipline and climate available to schools and districts; and

  • the Compendium of School Discipline Laws and Regulations, an online catalogue of the laws and regulations related to school discipline in each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, compares laws across states and jurisdictions."

Writing to Linguistically Diverse Audiences

Writing effectively for an audience with a wide variety of backgrounds is difficult. This page provides several resources to help writers craft their message to reach the widest possible audience.

Elements of Effective Family-School Partnerships

This webinar provides participants with a framework that identifies the elements of effective family-school partnerships. Participants explored four versions of family-school partnerships and assessed where their school community falls within the framework. The webinar explores various strategies to help schools move from basic levels of partnership to more effective and systemic family-school partnerships that support learning and school improvement.

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.

Systemic Family Engagement

The purpose of this webinar is to define and demonstrate in detail what is meant by “systemic” family engagement. The webinar features “promising practice” district initiatives that spans several schools, that are linked to student learning, and engage community partners.

The Why and What of Family Engagement

The purpose of this webinar was to explore current research-based definitions of family engagement and what we now know about the impact of family engagement on student achievement and whole school reform.  The webinar explores  the meaning of "family engagement", the various was families are involved in their children's education, the impact of these various engagements in their children's edcuation.

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