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NEA shines light on “invisibility factor” experienced by American Indian/Alaska Native students

Provides resources for National American Indian Heritage Month


WASHINGTON - October 29, 2009 -

November is National American Indian Heritage Month, a time to recognize the rich history and heritage of American Indians and Alaska Natives. To help address the challenges facing American Indian and Alaska Native students and educators, the National Education Association has released a new resource called Focus on What Works.

Focus on What Works provides background on America’s original citizens and details programs throughout the U.S. that have helped boost student achievement, test scores and graduation rates for American Indian and Alaska Native students.

“We hope policymakers and educators will use this resource as a guide to what works,” said Dennis Van Roekel, president of NEA. “There are steps we can take today to preserve the history and culture of the past, while preparing American Indian and Alaska Native students for the future.”

Focus on What Works also shines light on the “invisibility factor” experienced by American Indian and Alaska Native students. For example, data for this diverse group is often missing or incomplete from education research and literature. The history, culture and contributions of American Indians and Alaska Natives are often absent from the curricula taught in most school systems.  

“When we say ‘a great public school for every student,’ we mean every student. For us, no student is invisible,” added Van Roekel. “It is our privilege and responsibility to educate and advocate for every student. That’s why NEA has consistently pushed for the preservation and revitalization of Native languages and cultures and the resources students need to succeed.”

American Indians and Alaska Natives are far from invisible, and policies should reflect that fact. There are approximately 644,000 American Indian and Alaska Native students in K–12 public schools across America. Ninety percent of all American Indian and Alaska Native students attend regular public schools, while only 7 percent attend reservation schools administered by the federal Bureau of Indian Education. More than 170,000 teachers in America’s public schools are American Indian and Alaska Native.

Focus on What Works is available at no charge on NEA’s Web site. In honor of National American Indian Heritage Month, NEA is also offering recommended reading lists to introduce students to Native American history and culture. Titles are listed by grade level and include fiction, nonfiction and poetry.


Focus on What Works: www.nea.org/assets/docs/64507_NEA_Indian.pdf
Reading Lists: www.nea.org/grants/29498.htm

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional organization, representing 3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Ramona Parks-Kirby  (202) 822-7823, rparks@nea.org