McConnell Gillis, the numbers say a lot.
about 190 Native freshmen who started high school in 2000, she said,
fewer than than 80 of those entered 12th grade four years later.
are really staggering statistics," said Gillis, executive director
for the Doyon Foundation.
along with a committee of local Native and education leaders, hope
the Effie Kokrine Charter School will help change those numbers.
The group hopes to bring a proposal for the 150-student secondary
charter school to the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District
school board this summer. If approved, it would be the third public
charter school in the district.
know that what is currently being done is not working for our Native
students," Gillis said.
said the school is slated to open in the fall of 2005, assuming
it is approved by the school district and the state school board.
When it first opens, it will serve Native and non-Native students
in seventh through ninth grades. She said the school's organizing
committee hopes to add grades yearly until eventually the school
allows students to attend through grade 14.
defining characteristic of the school, as it's proposed, is its
curriculum. Organizers plan to teach all of the academic subjects
using Native culture and practices. Some examples: A science unit
on weather would include both traditional and modern forecasting
methods. Government and history lessons might include an emphasis
on the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act and tribal, state and
federal laws that affect Native people. The committee also hopes
to hire as many Native teachers as possible, bring elders into the
classroom on a regular basis and require parent involvement in the
envision school starting off in the fall with a spirit camp or a
cultural camp," said Bob McGuire, director of the learning
styles center project for the Association of Interior Native Educators,
which will serve as the umbrella organization for the charter school.
"A lot of the things in this curriculum are not just things
you can talk about in the classroom. You have to get out and experience
them as much as possible."
said the curriculum's emphasis on Native culture should make it
more relevant to students.
think the basic effect is right from the beginning we will have
students having pride and taking control and interest of their own
education," he said.
and students at an informational meeting last week had good things
to say about the proposal.
George and Tina Leavitt both said they liked the idea that their
children could learn Native culture and language at school.
want my kids to grow up as whalers because I am a whaler,"
said George Leavitt, who is originally from Barrow.
Souphanavong, a freshman at West Valley High School, liked the charter
school's idea of having more Native teachers.
not a lot of Native teachers (at my school). I don't like that,"
she said. "Sometimes they bring teachers in from the Lower
48 and they teach differently."
Jones, the mother of four teenagers, said a smaller school appeals
to her. Her children attended village schools and did well in that
environment, she said, but found Fairbanks' larger schools overwhelming.
my kids have learned in a small environment and they excel in a
small environment," she said.
district administrators are also supportive of the plan.
district test data has shown for several years that Alaska Native
students are not performing at the capacity that we know they can
and should," said Superintendent Ann Shortt.
school is a difficult time for children, she said.
think this could be a very safe environment for students,"
Shortt said. "And I think learning with a focus on their culture
could be a real strength."