Prior to contact with Europeans the area now recognized as Oregon was the homeland of diverse native peoples. The descendants of those people, and native people from throughout the United States continue to live and thrive here. The richness of these cultures enriches history and nourishes all Oregonians. Developing an understanding of the diverse lifeways of today’s native people and the legacy of our nation’s growth offers all people the opportunity to develop a shared future.
Historically, American Indian/Alaska Native Education is a rocky path. Many factors contribute to the Academic Achievement Gap that exists between American Indian/Alaska Native learners and their peers. Whether native students are dropping out, or stepping out, the result is the same, low employment rates, depressed economic development in Indian Country, separatism, and poverty. Our students need to leave high school with the knowledge and skills to succeed in careers, higher education, business, and life. The path is clear, we need teachers who are culturally competent to work with native students and impart to non-natives respect for the deep cultural roots of the US. It will take all of us working together at every level to ensure true equity in our schools.
In September 2017, ODE’s Office of Accountability, Research and Information Services prepared the American Indian/Alaska Native Students in Oregon: A Review of Key Indicators report. The report is being made available to the public to further conversations about improving outcomes for Oregon’s American Indian student population.
The native population is about 1.4% of the total population in Oregon. American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) and Hawaiian Native students are potentially in every classroom and every district. Oregon is a national leader in adopting a comprehensive plan developed by native education leaders. The AI/AN Education State Plan aligns to the strategic goals and key efforts of the Oregon Department of Education. The 2015 plan focuses on eleven (11) educational objectives with accompanying strategies and measureable outcomes.
The Oregon Department of Education promotes active tribal communication through the Indian Education Advisor to the Deputy Superintendent. Executive Order 96-30 was issued by the Governor of the State of Oregon in 1996, it established State Government-to-Government Relations with the nine (9) federally recognized Tribes in Oregon. The purpose of the formal relationship was to improve services and develop avenues for consultation. Under EO 96-30 the Government to Government Education Cluster was established. The Indian Education Advisor meets at least quarterly with the Government-to-Government Education Cluster to create and monitor the annual work plan; to exchange information on issues impacting tribes and schools; to review and establish policy positions with tribes; to receive questions and requests for data, share research and information; to maintain active communication with all aspects of the educational enterprise, participating entities include the Chief Education Office, the Higher Education Coordinating Commission, the Teachers Standards & Practices Commission, and the Oregon Student Access Commission.
Part C Title VI of the “Every Student Succeeds Act” (ESSA) of 2015 details the national expectations to provide a quality education for American Indian, Alaska and Hawaiian Native students. There are federal grant programs to 1) support the efforts of local educational agencies to meet the culturally related educational needs of native students so such students can meet academic standards; 2) ensure that students gain knowledge and understanding of Native communities, languages, tribal histories, traditions and cultures, and 3) to ensure that school staff who serve native students have the ability to provide culturally appropriate and effective instruction.