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Effort Ties Native Language Preservation to Boosting Academics

One of the 22 new federally funded comprehensive centers dedicated to helping struggling schools will be working to ensure Native languages and cultures are part of students' education in the same way as core academic subjects.

The National Indian Education Association, an advocacy group for the education of Native American students that serves a substantially rural population, will be assisting the University of Oklahoma's South Central Regional Comprehensive Center. It will serve students in Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.

The South Central Regional Comprehensive Center received a $2.2 million grant this past fall, and it has a subcontract with the NIEA to help with Native language instruction.

The National Indian Education Association plans to develop a series of webinars and conference workshops focused on bringing Native languages and cultures into curricula.

It's a noteworthy effort, considering The Nation's Report Card: National Indian Education Study 2011 released last summer showed only 33 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native 8th-graders had reading teachers who integrated Native culture and language into their instruction. The association contends the lack of that instruction is one reason Native students struggle academically.

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