Native Advocates Ramp Up Support for Sen. Tester’s Language Bill

Just before Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana) took up the gavel of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in February, he introduced the Native Language Immersion Student Achievement Act.

Just before Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana) took up the gavel of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in February, he introduced the Native Language Immersion Student Achievement Act.


Rob Capriccioso, ICTMN


Just before Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana) took up the gavel of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in February, he introduced the Native Language Immersion Student Achievement Act, which would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to provide increased federal financial support to Native American language programs at American Indian-focused schools.

RELATED: Tester, in Line to Be SCIA Chair, to Introduce Indian School Language Bill

If passed, the bill would establish a grant program to support schools using Native American languages as their primary language of instruction. The legislation would appropriate $5 million for fiscal year 2015, and “such sums as may be necessary for each of the succeeding 4 fiscal years.” The secretary of the Department of Education would be responsible for making grant awards to eligible institutions each of the years, and grantees would be required to submit annual reports.

“We are racing against the clock to save and revitalize our sacred Native American languages,” Tester said when he announced the bill. “Preserving Native languages will strengthen Indian culture and increase student confidence—leading to greater academic achievement and a stronger economy.”

Support from the National Congress of American Indians and many Native-focused organizations, which plan to hold a congressional briefing March 12 on Capitol Hill to heighten awareness of the bill, has been widespread.

“In introducing the Native Language Immersion Student Achievement Act, Sen. Tester has answered the call from Indian country to invest in Native language immersion schools,” says Brian Cladoosby, president of the National Congress of American Indians. “Not only are these unique schools our best hope to save and revitalize our sacred Native languages, but they offer Indian education the purest form of intellectual sovereignty, because no right is more sacred to Native peoples than the right to freely speak our Native languages.”

Native education advocates widely view the bill as an opportunity to influence ESEA reauthorization discussions that are ongoing in the Senate. While the ESEA, which includes the Indian Education Act, still faces some hurdles in passing this Congress, advocates are hopeful that Tester’s legislation can ultimately be included in that broader education legislation.

“Sen. Tester’s bill offers Indian country heightened ownership in its educational destiny and a lifeline in saving Native Languages,” says Ryan Wilson, president of the National Alliance to Save Native Languages, which is hosting the Capitol Hill briefing. “Just as important to Indian country it is good policy and reflects a sharpened focus and stronger Indian Education Act.”

Wilson says that tribal recommendations to enhance the Native language and education components of the ESEA have gone unheeded by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions (HELP) to date.

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs recommendations from the 112th Congress that were contained in the groundbreaking Native Class Act and Native Build Act were not reflected as well,” Wilson adds. “Native language provisions published within the White House ESEA blueprint were also not included.”

Wilson says the Alliance is calling on Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the HELP committee, to include provisions contained within the Native Language Immersion Student Achievement Act when the committee ultimately moves its ESEA bill to the Senate floor.

As this policy discussion unfolds, tribal advocates are also noting ideas that they believe could strengthen Tester’s bill.

John Echohawk, executive director of the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), which provides legal counsel to the Tribal Education Department National Assembly, is taking the opportunity to advocate for a strong role for tribal governments in saving Native languages as part of this legislation.

“Many tribes now have Tribal Education Departments or Agencies (TEAs),” Echohawk says. “Under tribal law, under the laws of some states, and increasingly even under federal law, TEAs are in the best position to coordinate resources from tribal, federal, and state programs to focus on language immersion programs in schools and communities.  Some TEAs are even developing and implementing the needed language preservation and immersion programs.

“As they grow in numbers and capacity, TEAs are consistently taking the lead in meeting the need for tribal language, culture, and history programs and curricula,” Echohawk says. “TEAs are very familiar with the link—as recognized in scores of federal reports—between culturally relevant schooling, including language immersion programs, and Native student success.”

Echohawk is scheduled to appear at the March 12 Capitol Hill briefing on the legislation.




Cherokee students receive 1,000 donated books from Chattanooga school

Oaks Mission sixth-graders stand with teacher Jerry Jackson outside the school with some of the books donated by East Brainerd Intermediate School in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Oaks Mission sixth-graders stand with teacher Jerry Jackson outside the school with some of the books donated by East Brainerd Intermediate School in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Source: The Cherokee Nation News

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Four elementary schools within the Cherokee Nation’s jurisdiction received more than 1,000 books earlier this month from Chattanooga, Tenn. fourth graders, who held a book drive after learning about the tribe’s history and removal on the Trail of Tears.

The East Brainerd Intermediate School students formed a project to honor about 16,000 Cherokees who 176 years ago made the 1,000-mile journey from the ancestral homeland to present-day Oklahoma. With help from their teacher, the students organized a school-wide book drive and then shipped 96 boxes of books to schools in the Cherokee Nation.

“I was touched that a group of young children would put together such a heartfelt service learning project,” said Shelley Butler-Allen, who manages the tribe’s Johnson O’Malley program and coordinated with East Brainerd school. “The generosity by the students in Chattanooga is truly admirable. Hundreds of students here in the Cherokee Nation will benefit from their good deed.”

A private shipping company in Chattanooga volunteered to deliver the books to Belfonte School in Sequoyah County, Bell School in Adair County, and Kenwood and Oaks Mission schools in Delaware County. The four schools have a high percentage of Native American students.

“They’re really polite to think of us and send us good books to read,” said Oaks sixth-grader Christian Sequichie.

Sequichie picked out a donated James Patterson novel to read since he had read two others in the series.

The schools are sorting through the books, which will then be used for classroom reading.

“It’s nice to see them get excited about paperbacks when we’re moving into a digital world,” Oaks Mission Counselor and Principal Barbara Tucker said. “The students will really enjoy these.”

School and state leaders discuss education in Washington

Christopher AnderssonFormer Marysville mayor Dennis Kendall (left) makes a point as state senator John McCoy, state representative Hans Dunshee and Snohomish County Executive John Lovick listen during the Marysville School District's forum on Jan. 6.

Christopher Andersson
Former Marysville mayor Dennis Kendall (left) makes a point as state senator John McCoy, state representative Hans Dunshee and Snohomish County Executive John Lovick listen during the Marysville School District’s forum on Jan. 6.

By Christopher Andersson, North County Outlook

The education landscape in Washington, including increasing instructional hour requirements, more stringent accountability and additional initiatives, was discussed on Jan. 6 when Marysville School District leaders met with Washington state representatives.

Increasing Hours

The amount of instructional hours that school districts must provide to high school students may be increasing next fall.

The Washington state legislature increased the current 1000 instructional hour requirement to 1080, or the equivalent of 180 six-hour days.

The Quality Education Council’s survey of 128 Washington districts shows that less than half are currently meeting the requirement.

School districts around Washington have been looking at their options, mainly consisting of adding 10 to 15 minutes to the schedule or cutting out the majority of half-day and late-start days.

“It is not an easy implementation for many districts. It would require some pretty formidable collective bargaining, as they’re changing the conditions of work. The six-hour day takes away many of the options districts have for collaboration time,” said Jerry Jenkins, superintendent of Northwest 189 Educational Service District.

Marysville’s assistant superintendent Ray Houser said it will be a challenge for the district to reach 1080. They currently average close to 1000.

However, organizations like the National Center of Time and Learning support action that increases instructional hours like Washington state’s legislation.

Studies from the center show a positive correlation between expanding the school day or school year and increased student achievement.

The main concern from Marysville administrators and staff is that they will lose the half-days they use to collaborate and improve their teaching.

“To put an extra requirement of 1080 hours and not put in any additional funding for collaboration time or professional development puts districts in a difficult spot because that’s critical in order to have an effective program,” said Arden Watsen, president of the Marysville Education Association.

State Senator John McCoy said he is going to try to delay the 1080 instructional hour requirement and that the decision to pass it was based on incomplete data.

New Standards and Accountability

Washington state will fully adopt the Common Core State Standards next year and has also implemented the Teacher Principal Evaluation Project; however, the large number of new systems is creating ‘initiative fatigue,’ say Marysville education leaders.

The Common Core State Standards are a nationwide set of standards designed to replace statewide models.

“I’ve been an educator and I didn’t understand or underestimated the impact of them. I thought we were just setting the bar higher, but it’s not just that, we’re also changing the running path to get to the bar,” said Jenkins.

The Teacher Principal Evaluation Project provides a new system to evaluate teachers and principals.

While the Marysville leaders thought the two initiatives were good, they also emphasized the need for focus and stability.

“Continuous change and throwing ‘just one more thing’ in kills the momentum,” said Marysville school board president Tom Albright. “I see good things happening so I hope [state representatives] will find ways of fending off all these initiatives that try to throw one more thing on top.”

State representative Hans Dunshee said that all the laws do tend to take away time from teachers.

“All these legislators love to pass education bills and say they’re helping schools. They’re good intentioned but they really are sucking a lot of time. I think the best accountability was the school board member you could fire, but we are moving further and further away from that,” he said.

Students have faced some of the consequences of accountability as well. The amount of standardized testing is taking away from structured class time, said McCoy.

“I will continue my assault on standardized testing. I don’t think they’re productive and a lot of kids are absolutely afraid of them. There are some that are just poor test takers,” he said. “The teachers know where the students are at. They know what their students need. We legislators don’t need to be down in the nitty gritty.”

Tribal History

The need to include all aspects of local history in the curriculum, especially information about the local Native American tribes, is vital, according to Tulalip leaders.

“We are not just trying to get native students through school, but through school with some pride and balance,” said Tulalip Tribes vice-chair Deborah Parker. “We try and instill our cultural values and they go to school and it changes them, so how do we teach our students and feel like they’re still native?”

Curriculum that is inclusive to Native American history and culture will help to make Native American students feel included as well, and the current levels in most schools are not adequate, she said.

Senator McCoy spoke on HB 1495, a bill he introduced and passed in 2005 which mandated that Washington tribal history must be taught in public schools. Even though nine years have passed since that time “only 20 to 25 percent of schools have implemented it,” he said.

Lessons of Our Land Curriculum Launched During Heritage Month


Source: Indian Country Today Media Network

Learning about Native history and culture doesn’t need to be relegated to one month of the year. Though the Indian Land Tenure Foundation (ILTF) thought Native American Heritage Month would be a good time to release its Native American land curriculum website for pre-K and K-12 classrooms.

“The launch of this website in November coincides with National Native American Heritage Month and the approach of Thanksgiving—for many public school teachers, the only time during the school year they will discuss Native American history in their classroom,” said ILTF President Cris Stainbrook in a November 18 press release. “We would invite all of them to look through the curriculum and choose at least one grade-appropriate lesson to replace the old worn out story of the Pilgrims, and perhaps think about adding one other lesson the week after Thanksgiving.”

The Lessons of Our Land curriculum is designed to be incorporated into a number of subjects and is adaptable to include the history and culture of a region’s Indian nations. The curriculum has so far been successfully implemented in 105 tribal schools, public schools and colleges in eight states.

Lessons of Our Land’s components meet state standards in many core areas, such as history, art, civics, mathematics, science, geography and language arts. To see what lessons are available, visit



Parents get a B+ for kids’ back-to-school shots in Snohomish County

Is your child up to date? Vaccines required for school are available to children at no cost

Source: Snohomish Health District

SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. –– More 5 and 6 year olds in Snohomish County had all the vaccines they needed to enter school last year, according to recent data released by the state Department of Health. For the 2012-2013 school year, 86.3 percent of local kindergarteners were up to date on their shots, better than past years and higher than the state average of 85.6 percent

Vaccines are required for school children because they prevent disease in a community setting. The rate of vaccination has continued to climb since an all-time low in 2008-2009

School districts report vaccination rates to the state. The highest immunization rates for all grades (K-12) in Snohomish County last school year were in Lakewood (94.8%) and Everett (94.7%) school districts.

A small percentage of families seek exemption from the vaccination requirement, an average of 5.3 percent in Snohomish County schools compared to 4.5 percent statewide for children entering kindergarten.

In 2011 the process for parents or guardians to exempt their child from school or child care immunization requirements was changed. Parents need to see a medical provider to get a signature on the Certificate of Exemption form for their child’s school. More information about the form and the law is available online at

Although exemptions are allowed for medical, religious, or personal reasons, the best disease protection is to make sure children have all their recommended immunizations. Children may be sent home from school, preschool, or child care during outbreaks of diseases if they have not been immunized.

Summer is a good time to make sure your children are up to date on required shots. The cost of childhood vaccines is subsidized by federal and state government so that every parent can choose to have their child protected without regard to cost.

Required childhood vaccines are available for the school year 2013-2014.

  • · Two doses of chickenpox (varicella) vaccine or doctor-verified history of disease is required for age kindergarten through grade 5. Students in grade 6 are required to have one dose of varicella or parental history of disease.
  • · The whooping cough (pertussis) vaccine, Tdap, is required for students in grades 6-12 who are 11 years and older.

Recommended vaccines also are available.

  • · Varicella vaccine for children in grades 7-12 who have never had chickenpox.
  • · Meningococcal vaccine for adolescents age 11-12. A second (booster) dose at age 16-18 if first dose was given at ages 11-15.
  • · A three-shot series of human papillomavirus (HPV) for both adolescent boys and girls age 11 and older.
  • · Children 12 months and older should receive hepatitis A vaccine, a two-shot series.
  • · Flu vaccine for all people age 6 months and older.

Snohomish Health District promotes routine vaccination of children and adults.

Snohomish Health District’s Immunization Clinic will serve you if your family does not have a health care provider. A visit to a Health District clinic includes a check of your child’s record in the Washington Immunization Information System, the state’s immunization registry.

Parents should beat the rush by making appointments now with their child’s health care provider. At the Health District, parents can make an appointment during normal clinic hours at either the Lynnwood or Everett office.

A parent or legal guardian must accompany a child to the clinic, and must bring a complete record of the child’s immunizations. You need to fill out a Snohomish Health District authorization form to have another person bring your child to the clinic. Ask the clinic staff to mail or fax a form to you.

Health District clinics request payment on the day of service in cash, check, debit, or credit card. Medical coupons are accepted, but private insurance is not. The cost can include an office visit fee, plus an administration fee per vaccine. Reduced fees are available by filling out a request based on household size and income.

Teens also occasionally require travel vaccines for out-of-country mission work or community service. The Health District offers those immunizations and health advice for traveling in foreign countries.

Please call if you have questions, concerns or to schedule an appointment: SHD Immunization Clinic 425.339.5220.

Read more about the state’s vaccine requirements for school-age children and child care. Find more information about Washington’s school immunization data.

Established in 1959, the Snohomish Health District works for a safer and healthier community through disease

prevention, health promotion, and protection from environmental threats. Find more information about the Health District at


Back-to-school shots hours:

SHD Everett Immunization Clinic, 3020 Rucker Ave, Suite 108, Everett, WA 98201


By appointment: 8 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m. Monday-Wednesday-Friday

SHD Lynnwood Immunization Clinic, 6101 200th Ave SW, Lynnwood, WA 98036


By appointment: 8 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday

NOTE: Both clinics will be closed on weekends and on Labor Day, Sept. 2.