ERIC Identifier: ED400145
Publication Date: 1996-10-00
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and
Small Schools Charleston WV.
Comprehensive Planning: Guidance for Educators of American
Indian and Alaska Native Students. ERIC Digest.
Comprehensive planning for school reform is currently underway at all levels
of the educational system, from the training of teachers and administrators, to
the organization of schools, to the instructional methods and materials used in
classrooms. The purpose of the planning is to help make it possible--through a
series of organizational and instructional changes--for all children to reach
the same high academic standards. Educators and parents of American Indian and
Alaska Native (AI/AN) students, as well as other members of tribal communities,
must participate in this planning to ensure that the needs of AI/AN students are
carefully considered at the local level.
This Digest provides brief descriptions of key federal legislation and
initiatives calling for school reform. Each description is followed by a series
of questions that can help American Indian and Alaska Native communities closely
examine local school reform plans and decide if those plans are designed to (1)
ensure the academic success of AI/AN students and (2) reflect the views of their
community. Current school reform emphasizes "locally determined" decision
making, so each community will need to tackle the questions posed in this Digest
in different ways. There is no "one best way" to address AI/AN student needs
since local circumstances and needs vary from one community to the next.
When the Goals 2000: Educate America Act was passed in 1994, it set the year
2000 as a target date for reaching the National Education Goals of 1990. Under
this law, states and school districts are encouraged to use their federal monies
in combination with other state and local resources for projects to improve both
teaching and learning. The Act also encourages schools to form partnerships with
parents, tribes, and businesses, and requires a school improvement plan to
"reflect the student body representation" (Licitra & Miller, 1994, p. 6).
The National Education Goals and the beliefs reflected in the Goals 2000:
Educate America Act have helped shape much of the school reform effort that has
How many schools with Indian students in your district have Goals 2000
projects? Do those projects reflect Indian community views on schooling? How
have parents of AI/AN students helped to develop the School Improvement Plan?
TITLE I OF THE ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION ACT
1994, Congress passed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) as part
of the Improving America's Schools Act (IASA). The new ESEA is based on the
belief that all students can learn and are, therefore, entitled to schooling
that helps them strive for and meet high academic standards. To meet this
challenge, ESEA (especially Title I, the section of the Act that focuses on
serving under-achieving children from low-income families) encourages schools to
rethink how all of their local, state, and federal money could better help all
students learn at higher levels.
This new legislation reflects a major change in thinking. Now, if all
students are not reaching high academic standards, the fault will be seen as
resting with the schools, not with the children. The new Act urges schools to
consider making several specific types of changes: (1) to give students who need
it extra help right in their classrooms instead of pulling them out to work with
them separately, (2) to make the school day and/or year longer, and (3) to make
sure that the services that children and their families need are better
coordinated between schools and community agencies.
The new Title I stresses setting up schoolwide programs in schools with 50
percent or more children from low-income families. While some Title I programs
will still be targeted assistance programs (that is, the old system that singles
out certain students for special help), schoolwide programs are encouraged
whenever possible (Federal Register, 1995). In schoolwide programs, schools are
supposed to use Title I money to improve teaching and learning in the entire
school. They may also combine most of their federal education monies with other
state and local resources to support their comprehensive school reform efforts.
In other words, all students--not just Title I students--then benefit from Title
I money (Pechman & Fiester, 1994, pp. 1-2). Consolidation of efforts is to
be the game plan. It should be noted, however, that to support strong Indian
community control, Indian Education Act (IEA, described next) funds cannot be
put into the schoolwide pot of money without IEA Parent Committee approval.
How many Title I schools in your district have schoolwide programs? How many
have targeted assistance programs? How many AI/AN students are in these schools
and how are their specific needs served by these programs? Is the Indian
community well represented on Title I planning committees, schoolwide
committees, parent advisory committees, or other planning efforts?
INDIAN EDUCATION ACT
The renewed Indian Education Act
(IEA), passed in 1994, included many important changes. Unfortunately, these
changes are not well known in Indian country. Therefore, they have not yet
widely affected the rethinking of education services to AI/AN students or the
IEA projects. Several new items in IEA deserve special attention.
The number one purpose of IEA is, as always, to meet the "special educational
and culturally related academic needs" of AI/AN students (Congressional Record,
1994, sec. 9101[c]). Yet--just like Title I described above--the 1994 Act
requires that IEA grant money be used to support school districts in their
reform efforts. IEA projects must directly promote the goals of state and local
improvement plans. Equally as important, every IEA application for grant money
must include a comprehensive plan that explains how other federal, state, and
local programs, especially under Title I, will meet the needs of all AI/AN
students in the school district. The plan should describe how all school
resources will be used to help improve AI/AN student performance and how the IEA
monies will add to (not take the place of) this effort. Notably, the Act also
requires school districts receiving IEA funds to regularly check the progress of
all AI/AN students (not just the AI/AN students who receive IEA services) in
meeting the goals of the state and local improvement plans (Congressional
Record, 1994, sec. 9114[b][A]). In other words, school districts must show
that their efforts for improvement are actually helping AI/AN students achieve
high academic performance. And, school districts must report on their progress
to the community. From now on, Indian communities should be informed exactly how
their children are doing in the school system. This information will help
communities work closely with schools, on an ongoing basis, to continue
improving Indian student performance.
For local Indian Education Act projects, this means all plans now must
reflect the same high academic goals adopted under Title I for all other
students. For some IEA projects this will require a major change: Projects that
are not directly tied to one or more school improvement goal(s)--either academic
or behavioral--no longer meet the legislative requirements.
IEA funding is only one program that, when combined with other larger
programs, makes up a total school package for meeting AI/AN students' needs. All
district programs (including IEA) must work together in a unified effort to meet
Does your IEA project plan support your local or state school reform efforts?
Is the IEA project directly tied to specific school improvement goal(s) and does
it add to--but not replace--school district responsibilities for educating all
PARENT INVOLVEMENT AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
important focuses of school reform--increased parent involvement and
professional development opportunities--deserve special attention from Indian
people. Increased parent involvement is a key feature of the Elementary and
Secondary Education Act. Districts are urged to set aside money for helping
parents learn skills and for family literacy (Congressional Record, 1994, sec.
1118[a][A]). Also, each school must now write a Parent Involvement Policy
that describes ways the school will work to increase the role played by parents
in all aspects of their children's education. This policy must be written with
the help of parents and its success must be judged annually. If the plan is
found to be ineffective, the school district is responsible for figuring out why
and for making needed changes. These new requirements should be a big help to
Indian communities for identifying and eliminating barriers that prevent
meaningful parent involvement.
Does your district have a written "Parent Involvement Policy"? Has the Indian
community helped design and write it? Does the policy spell out ways to break
down barriers that keep Indian parents from being involved in ways that really
Quality professional development opportunities are a must for school reform
(Darling-Hammond & McLaughlin, 1996). So, school districts are rethinking
their plans for such training, especially as to who should receive it and what
the content should be. IEA also requires applicants to describe the training
opportunities the school district will provide to make sure that "teachers and
other school professionals who are new to the Indian community are prepared to
work with AI/AN children" (Congressional Record, 1994, sec. 9114[b][B]). That
IEA requirement, however, is not stating that IEA's limited monies should be
used for this purpose. There are many much larger pots of money to do this; for
example, federal money under Titles I and II of ESEA and Title III of Goals
2000, plus state and local sources. IEA funds are better used for direct
services to AI/AN students.
As a result of school reform, many teachers and school administrators are
facing basic changes in how they do their jobs. Consequently, at this time most
professional development training monies are being used to help them during the
transition period. But, parents and community members are also entitled to be
part of school training programs. So parents and Indian community members need
to be assertive about their inclusion in school professional development
initiatives. (Congressional Record, 1994, sec. 1112[b][C][A],
1114[b][D], 1119[d]; U.S. Department of Education, 1996, p. ii).
Is there a professional development plan for your school and did Indian
parents or community members help write it? Does the professional development
plan include training for teachers and school staff on how to make schools more
supportive places for AI/AN student success in meeting high academic standards?
Will training opportunities be offered to parents and community members?
Our nation's schools are undertaking school
reform so that all children can reach high academic standards. This, then, is
the challenge: To use this national educational reform movement to dramatically
improve AI/AN student performance. To meet this challenge, everyone with a stake
in Indian education must actively participate in all comprehensive planning
efforts. They must ask themselves how they can use this window of opportunity to
help more of their students become academic leaders, Merit Scholars, and role
models for all other students to follow.
Congressional Record: Proceedings and debates of
the 103rd Congress, second session. (1994, September 28). Washington DC:
Government Printing Office.
Darling-Hammond, L., & McLaughlin, M. W. (1996). Policies that support
professional development in an era of reform. In M. W. McLaughlin (Ed.), Teacher
learning: New policies, new practices, 202-219. New York: Teachers College
Education Trust. (n.d.). A new chance: Making the most of Title I.
Washington, DC: Author.
Federal Register. (1995, September 21), pp. 49174-49176.
LeTendre, M. J. (1995, April). The new Title I: Helping disadvantaged
children meet high standards. The Title I Times. National Association of State
Coordinators of Compensatory Education.
Licitra, A., & Miller, B. (Eds.). (1994, June 20). Education USA, 36(2)
Pechman, E. M., & Fiester, L. (1994). Implementing schoolwide projects:
An idea book. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education. (ERIC Document
Reproduction Service No. ED 370 165)
U.S. Department of Education. (1996). Mapping out the national assessment of
Title I: The interim report (executive summary). Washington, DC: Author.