Navajo Education History
Since the Treaty of 1868, the U.S. government has taken on the responsibility of educating the Navajo people. Reports that date back to 1928 show that failures have occurred on education policies. In-depth reports from 1969 and 1980 also note how the Bureau of Indian Affairs failed to deliver on the promises of a quality education.
After more than 100 years, the Navajo Nation Sovereignty in Education Act was passed in 2005. It shifted the responsibility of educational matters in schools to the Navajo Nation, allowing them to work collaboratively with national, state, and local officials to create a better system of education.
Most Navajo Students Attend Public School Systems
The difference for Navajo children compared to non-native populations is that the public schools were funded by the Bureau of Indian Affairs instead of local school districts. That created funding challenges which set the educational opportunities much lower for tribal families due to the local of collaborative initiatives and programs.
For over a century, that has results in the Navajo Nation being required to support students who are not ready for college or a vocation. This created tragic consequences which held the wellbeing, even the survival, of individual students in fragile hands.
Even then, it wouldn’t be until 2014 that the Navajo Nation would be selected to receive research funding to determine if it could assume responsibility for the schools within its territory.
Why Is Reform Necessary for Navajo Education?
Reforms are needed within Navajo school districts because experienced teachers and administrative staff are not readily present. The turnover rates in these school districts, before reform efforts started, were triple that of the average school district.
These high turnover rates created fragile learning environments with little family involvement or student accountability. By establishing more local control, the goal is to promote more self-determination within the educational processes available to Navajo families.
Partnerships can now be formed with other groups, including other school districts, to strengthen the curriculum available at Navajo schools. This will help to reduce the performance gaps seen between Navajo students and non-tribal students.
Funding still comes from the U.S. government, with more than $200,000 in funds awarded for each fiscal year. The difference is in the supervision. Instead of distant federal oversight, students get locally-based oversights from with the Navajo Nation. In time, this should help to improve the educational profile of all.