Successfully closing the achievement gap in Montana will require concerted and focused efforts in our schools that serve American Indian students. It is an effort that will require the cooperation of school leadership, school boards, staff, students and their parents/guardians, community, and other area organizations and entities, including tribal governments. We know too well the negative impacts of the achievement gap – dropouts, unemployment, even incarceration – and we must all accept responsibility for bringing about its end for the success and future of all Montana.
We must provide ALL students with the equality of educational opportunity which is guaranteed to them in Montana’s Constitution. Above all, it is paramount to develop a district wide, systematic plan to address all areas that contribute to the achievement gap in your district. School leadership and staff should attend professional development opportunities related to achievement gap issues and should be aware of current research and promising practices that have proven effective and keep students actively engaged in school. Another important step is to make classroom learning relevant through the use of culturally appropriate materials and instruction. It also means providing teachers with quality professional development that will help them effectively teach students who are culturally and/or economically different from themselves.
In addition, gather accurate resources and materials about American Indians. Stock your library. Buy classroom sets of novels relating to American Indian issues. Set up a professional development library with books or education journals about Indian education. Find suggested resources on the OPI Web site. Fill your halls with historical and contemporary portraits of life and citizens of various Indian tribes. Bring in American Indian speakers or cultural leaders with whom American Indian students can identify and make connections. Those schools that receive funding for ANB Indian student count (per MCA 20-9-330) to close the achievement gap between Indian and non-Indian students should consider the following recommendations: