Faced with teacher shortages in big cities and
several academic specialties, school districts across the country have been hustling lately to sign up new recruits
for the classroom. But at the same time, another teacher shortage has received little public attention--this one
on Indian reservations, where on the average one teacher in three leaves every year, according to the American
Indian College fund.
this problem, the Education Department has developed a $10 million program with tribal colleges on reservations
to train 1,000 new teachers over the next five years.
and nearby universities are to work together to provide courses so that teacher aides in reservation schools, most
of them Native Americans, can earn the state credentials needed to become teachers.
there are fewer than 18,000 Native American teachers, less than 1 percent of the nation's 2.5 million teachers.
is tremendous turnover in schools that serve Native Americans because so many of them are isolated and remote,
and if you're not part of that community, you don't stay very long," said Therese Dozier, who advises Education
Secretary Richard W. Riley on teaching issues.
the program as "kind of 'grow your own.' . . . We are trying to target it to people who are already in the
schools and are part of the communities."
For the most
part, reservation schools have few Native American teachers, said Richard Williams, executive director of the American
Indian College fund, which supports the nation's 31 tribal colleges. At the Flathead reservation in Montana, for
instance, six of 450 teachers are Native Americans.
The fund has
argued that Native American teachers are likely to stay in reservation teaching jobs longer, and are able to serve
as role models for students and impart lessons about tribal culture.
culture, I can reach these kids in ways other teachers can't," said Allan Demaray, who began teaching this
fall at a school on the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota. About 90 percent of the students in the reservation's
schools are Native Americans, compared with about 10 percent of the teachers.
has been a priority of the tribal colleges since the first one was founded three decades ago, and all but five
have elementary education programs, most operated in conjunction with state colleges such as the University of
North Dakota and University of Nebraska.
one purpose of the grant program is to gradually build the capacity of tribal colleges to train more teachers.
design of the program, adopted in 1995, had only awarded fellowships to help individual students complete teacher
training in exchange for a commitment to work in schools serving Native Americans.