Reading and the Native American Learner Research Report

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1 For further information, see Indian Education Plan of Action for Washington State, published by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (1995).

2 A federally recognized tribe is an American Indian group whose political status has been affirmed through trust agreements, treaty-making, or other forms of federal/tribal action. A state-recognized tribe is a group whose status the federal government has not acknowledged, but whose status has nonetheless been affirmed by one or more state governments. The federally recognized tribes in Washington State include the Hoh, Jamestown S’Klallam, Kalispel, Lower Elwha Klallam, Makah, Muckleshoot, Nisqually, Nooksack, Port Gamble S’Klallam, Puyallup, Quileute, Sauk-Suiattle, Shoalwater Bay, Skokomish, Snoqualmie, Spokane, Squaxin Island, Stillaguamish, Suquamish, Swinomish and Upper Skagit, as well as the Lummi Nation, the Quinault Nation, the Yakama Nation, the Samish Nation, the Colville Confederated Tribes, the Chehalis Confederated Tribes, and the Tulalip Tribes. The tribes in Washington State that currently lack federal or state recognition are the Chinook, Cowlitz, Duwamish, Snohomish, Snoqualmoo, Marietta Band of Nooksack and Steilacoom, as well as the Kikiallus Indian Nation.

3 For an expanded discussion of the U.S. government’s historical role in American Indian education see, for example, Reyhner and Eder (1992). For an expanded discussion of the history of the U.S. government’s policies toward American Indians, see the addendum to this document.

4 This hope that schools would serve as a major tool for the assimilation of American Indians was not new. However, most previous efforts had been limited to missionary societies interested in “saving souls” (McKellips, 1992; Rehyner and Eder, 1992).

5 For more detailed discussions of American Indian language loss, including issues of language stabilization and renewal, see, for example, Boseker (1998), Cantoni (1996, 1997), Cleary and Peacock (1998) and Reyhner (1992b).

6 Summaries of the 1997 and 1998 administrations of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) test, including breakdowns of the results by ethnic group, are available online at

7 According to OSPI (1998b), American Indians represented 2.77 percent of the students in Washington’s public schools in 1997. Collectively, school districts in King County had the most American Indian students, with 4,222 American Indian enrollees. Pierce County followed King County, with 3,481 American Indian students. However, school districts in Ferry County, with only 285 American Indian enrollees during 1997, nevertheless had the largest percentage of American Indian students in relation to their total student enrollment: 22.04 percent.

8 A number of alternate theories have been put forth over time as to the reason for the relatively low level of educational success among American Indians and other minority students in comparison to white, middle-class students (e.g., cultural deficit theory). However, in this document we address only those theories that are currently widely accepted among educational researchers and theorists. For an overview of the more historically influential theories not presented in this document see Jacob and Jordan (1993).

9 Grammar is defined as “the way a language manipulates and combines words (or bits of words) in order to form longer units of meaning” (Ur, 1988, p.4). Phonology “refers to the sound structure of speech sounds” (Snow, Burns, and Griffin, 1998, p.46). The term “rules of discourse” refers to the rules that guide conversation.

10 Leap (1993) conducted research on and near the reservation of the Uintah and Ouray Tribe of Ute Indians, Inc. Phillips (1983) conducted research on and near the reservation of the Warm Springs Confederated Tribes.

11 Phillips (1983) uses the term Anglo to refer to white Americans whose culture shows a strong British influence.

12 Leap (1993) notes that a number of other studies found the oral and written English of Indian English speakers to be “less closely aligned” than in his study.

13 It should be noted that the categories within these typologies are not usually considered mutually exclusive, but are instead considered to exist upon a continuum. Furthermore, although an individual may be categorized according to the strategies he or she usually employs while learning, this is not meant to suggest that he or she cannot learn in other ways. For example, an individualistic learner is not completely unable to learn in collaborative group activities. These categories are only meant to describe the relative strengths or preferences (depending on the definition employed by the researcher) of a learner.

14 It is important to note that Ogbu’s generalizations regarding the distinctive features of immigrant and involuntary minorities are intended to be heuristic and are not meant to deny that there are individual and subgroup differences within minority groups.

15 The term pragmatics “refers to the ways the members of the speech community achieve their goals using language” (Snow, et al., 1998, p.46).

16 For an expanded discussion of the theories regarding the linguistic influences on Indian English varieties (e.g., target language adaptation and universal grammar), as well as a discussion of the historical contexts within which these influences occurred, see Craig (1991).

17 Swisher (1994) distinguishes between “method of instruction” and “teaching style” by stating that method of instruction refers to how instruction is organized (e.g., lecture, small group work, or oral reports), while teaching style refers to a teacher’s pervasive personal behaviors and media used while interacting with learners. The latter is the teacher’s characteristic approach, irrespective of the method utilized.

18 Similarly, it has been argued that students of any particular age will differ in their preferred ways of learning (Dunn and Griggs, 1995; Guild, 1998) and that an individual’s learning style may vary according to the type of task being performed (Gardner, 1993; Wlodkowski and Ginsberg, 1995). Research also suggests that among American Indians, learning styles tend to vary in relation to variables such as gender, an individual’s tribal background, and an individual’s degree of assimilation into mainstream culture (More, 1989; Walker, Dodd, and Bigelow, 1989). This does not imply that Indian students are unable to learn certain skills.

19 For a more intensive approach to modifying instruction to respond to the learning style needs of students (including teacher assessment of student learning styles and subsequent student-specific instructional modifications such as individualized assignments), see Leaver (1997); see also Dunn (1996) and Dunn and Griggs (1995).

20 For more detailed discussions on cooperative learning see, for example, Cohen (1994) and Slavin (1995).

21 For more detailed discussions of how to respond to student needs in regard to sensory modality strength, see, for example, Dunn and Griggs (1995), Kaulback (1984), Leaver (1997), Vail (1992) and Wallace (1995).

22 Increasing instructional support of global learners may be particularly effective in supporting student learning in elementary school classrooms since, according to Dunn and Griggs (1995), the majority of elementary school children are global learners.

23 Interestingly, Reyes also suggests that performance assessment is more congruent with traditional American Indian experience than is standardized testing. He notes that, as in performance assessment, American Indian people demonstrated competence through the performance of an activity (e.g., the creation of cedar baskets for cooking) and were judged according to publicly known criteria regarding their work.

24 For information on incentives and rewards that promote the achievement of American Indian students, see Pepper, Nelson, and Coburn (1985).

25 This is not to suggest that classroom practices need to precisely mirror the cultural practices of American Indian students’ home cultures (Au and Kawakami, 1994; Jordan, 1985). As Jordan (1985) asserts, the “point” of cultural compatibility is merely that the student’s “natal culture is used as a guide in the selection of educational program elements so that academically desired behaviors are produced and undesired behaviors are avoided” (p.110, as cited in Ladson-Billings, 1995).

26 Such modifications may be particularly important for less traditional American Indian students. The research of Dehyle (1992) suggests that these students are more likely to interpret the adoption of attitudes and behaviors conducive to school success as a threat to their identity than more traditional American Indian students.

27 For more detailed discussions concerning the integration of multicultural perspectives into curricula, see, for example, Banks and McGee Banks (1997) and De Melendez and Ostertag (1997).

28 Thematic instruction may be a particularly effective method of addressing Cleary and Peacock’s third suggestion, since thematic instruction is often implemented in a manner that allows students to select interesting topics to pursue while studying a concept or broader theme decided upon by the teacher.

29 Instructional conversations, or ICs, are “discussion-based lessons geared toward creating opportunities for students’ conceptual and linguistic development … The teacher encourages expression of students’ own ideas, builds upon information students provide and experiences they have had, and guides students to increasingly sophisticated levels of understanding…. ICs assume that students themselves play an important role in constructing new knowledge and in acquiring new understandings about the world” (Goldenberg, 1991, p.1).

30 Basso (1970) suggests that silence, or “giving up on words,” is a culturally appropriate strategy for American Indians when assumptions about behavior are not clear.

31 Modifying classroom participation structures to include more small-group work and pair work may provide more time for teachers to engage in such individual attention.

32 By focusing on facilitating collaboration between teachers and parents, we do not intend to imply that there are not other important means of increasing parental involvement. For instance, the importance of increased parental inclusion in school decision making is often discussed in the literature. However, increasing parental involvement in such ways is beyond the scope of this document. For an expanded discussion of increasing American Indian parental involvement through school- and district-level efforts, see Butterfield and Pepper (1992); see also, McGee Banks (1997).

33 Another important change is the provision of a curriculum that is culturally relevant to a school’s American Indian students and their communities. Schools that do so validate the cultures of the American Indian students they serve, thereby influencing American Indian parents’ perceptions of the school (Butterfield and Pepper, 1992).

34 Phonological awareness “refers to the general ability to attend to the sounds of language as distinct from its meaning” (Snow et al., 1998, p.52).

35 Environmental print refers to the letters and words in the child’s surroundings, such as street signs.

36 Metalinguistic awareness refers to language or thoughts about language (Snow et al., 1998).

37 For an expanded discussion of this topic, see Section IV of this document.

38 For evaluations of children’s books about Indians, see Gilliland (1980, 1982, 1983).

39 Reprinted with permission from Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children. Copyright 1998, by the National Academy of Sciences. Courtesy of the National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.

40 Teachers will notice that these accomplishments are similar, but not identical, to the Framework for Achieving the Essential Academic Learning Requirements in Reading, Grades K–6, which was developed by the Commission on Student Learning, 1998. The perspective from which each document was written explains the disparities. The reading framework was developed by first examining the skills necessary to meet standards on the 4th grade Washington Assessment of Student Learning, then working backwards through Grades 3, 2, 1 and K. The Developmental Accomplishments outlined by Snow et al. (1998) trace reading development in the opposite direction, beginning at birth and progressing through preschool, K, 1, 2, and 3. Classroom teachers must keep both perspectives in mind when planning and delivering reading instruction.

41 For practices that support reading development, see OSPI (1998a).

42 For detailed information on schema theory, see Carrell and Eisterhold (1983).

43 For further information, see Rigg (1981).

44 Metacognition is defined as “thoughts about thinking (cognition); for example, thinking about how to understand a passage” (Snow et al., 1998, p.45)

45Phonemic awareness is the “insight that every spoken word can be conceived as a sequence of phonemes. Because phonemes are the units of sound that are represented by the letters of an alphabet, an awareness of phonemes is key to understanding the logic of the alphabetic principle and thus to the learnability of phonics and spelling (Snow et al., 1998, p.52)

46 For further information on how to teach vocabulary effectively, see Nagy (1988).

47 For further discussion of this mismatch between oral language and school vocabulary, see Hall, Nagy and Linn (1984).

48 For detailed discussion of this topic, please see Education Department of Western Australia (1994a, 1994b).

49 For further discussion of this issue, see Wolfram, Temple Adger and Christian (1999).

5050For further discussion of this issue, see Wolfram, Adger and Christian (1999).

51 Payne (1998) suggests using the categories of formal and informal registers.

52 Estimates of the number of independent American Indian nations present in what is now the United States immediately prior to the arrival of Europeans varies among sources. For instance, Segal and Stineback (1977) claim only 300 to have been present in all of North America. This inconsistency may in part be due to the fact that most American Indian communities in pre-Columbian times did not constitute part of a social organization that one would properly consider a “nation.” Viewing particular American Indian groups as nations was primarily a byproduct of the political demands of Indian/non-Indian treaty making (Dale, 1969; Fleras and Elliot, 1992).

53 With England’s defeat in the Revolutionary War, the U.S. was seen as having inherited England’s superior title to American Indian land (which she had supposedly gained by discovery) (Shattuck and Norgren, 1991).

54 Many American Indians argue that the Indian Reorganization Act was, in fact, far from beneficial or empowering to tribal communities. For instance, in 1989 the President of the Quinault Indian Nation, Joseph DeLaCruz, wrote that “though apologists for the Indian Reorganization Act thought the law would liberate Indian nations and promote their social, economic and political self-sufficiency, as a practical matter it became the instrument by which the U.S. government assumed greater autocratic rule over Indian Country” (Minugh, et al., 1989, p.5).

55 It is estimated that roughly 56 percent of American Indian people currently reside in urban areas (Grossman and Krieger, 1994; Shukovsky, 1994).

56 The federally recognized tribes in Washington State include the Hoh, Jamestown S’Klallam, Kalispel, Lower Elwha Klallam, Makah, Muckleshoot, Nisqually, Nooksack, Port Gamble S’Klallam, Puyallup, Quileute, Sauk-Suiattle, Shoalwater Bay, Skokomish, Snoqualmie, Spokane, Squaxin Island, Stillaguamish, Suquamish, Swinomish and Upper Skagit, as well as the Lummi Nation, the Quinault Nation, the Yakama Nation, the Samish Nation, the Colville Confederated Tribes, the Chehalis Confederated Tribes, and the Tulalip Tribes. The tribes in Washington State that currently lack federal or state recognition are the Chinook, Cowlitz, Duwamish, Snohomish, Snoqualmoo, Marietta Band of Nooksack and Steilacoom, as well as the Kikiallus Indian Nation.

57 Washington can assert complete jurisdiction within an American Indian reservation at the tribe’s request. Currently, only a very limited number of tribes remain under complete Washington State jurisdiction (Pevar, 1992; State of Washington, 1991).

58 A few tribal reservations in Washington State do not fall under state jurisdiction through P.L. 280 because the reservations were formed after P.L. 280 went into effect in this state.

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