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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


December 1, 2001 - Issue 50


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District Aims to Integrate Indian Culture


Language and cultural differences are among the hurdles Indian students sometimes find blocking their path to meeting high academic standards.

Helping them overcome those obstacles falls to Jo Anne Grandstaff, community education liaison for Indian Education in Topeka Unified School District 501.

"Anything that can help individual students be successful in school," Grandstaff, now in her second year with USD 501, said of her job description last week.

More specifically, her office provides support for:

  • Educational and culturally-related academic needs of Indian students.
  • Education for children and adults, including training Indians as educators and counselors.
  • Research, evaluation, data collection and technical assistance.

Language and cultural differences and lack of resources are obstacles, Grandstaff said, that affect the education of Indian students. Integrating more Indian culture into the district's curriculum could help resolve this issue, she said.

"More and more we're getting what black kids are, sometimes what the Latino kids are, but very little for what the native kids are," she said. "We have help for math and science, but we don't have anything to help them learn about themselves."

District curriculum director Gloria Fish said the district attempts to implement curriculum inclusive of diverse cultures.

"Anytime we write curriculum, we try to make sure we have included different cultures and races and make sure we are sensitive to their needs," she said.

But Grandstaff, as she reported to the school board this summer, said that a high dropout rate among Indian students indicates a need for more inclusion.

Financial support can help bolster Indian Education. The program is funded through Title IX's Indian Native, Hawaiian Native and Alaska Native Education Grant administered by the Office of Indian Education Programs at the Bureau of Indian Affairs, a subdivision of the U.S. Interior Department.

To qualify for a Title IX Indian Education grant a district must have a least 10 Indian students attending its schools. Each student must complete an eligibility document (form 506) to be submitted to the U.S. Education Department before the program can receive money, $222 per student in USD 501.

There were 612 students who identified themselves as Indian -- mainly of the Prairie Band Potawatomi, Kickapoo, Sac and Fox, and Iowa tribes -- during the 2000-01 school year. Grandstaff said this year's total has decreased to 512, of which only 320 students have completed their 506 form.

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Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.


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