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How to Engage Rural Native Communities in Education

As school starts up across the country, many districts are thinking about how to best engage families and communities. A recent webinar focused on this topic specific to turnaround schools that serve rural students or Native populations. The Indian Country Today media network compiled some tips from the webinar, which featured Mandy Smoker Broaddus, director of Indian education in Montana, Don Wetzel Jr., the American Indian youth development coordinator for Montana, and Adrian Watkins, a high school principal in Arkansas. Those tips include:

  • Teach staff about local culture. If teachers and staff members understand and appreciate the local culture, that can positively impact communication.
  • Utilize resources and build services. Schools should reach out to outside communities, nonprofits, or utilize state resources to bring more opportunities to rural, underserved communities.
  • Hire community liaisons. These liaisons can organize home visits, communicate with the community, and plan collaborative events between the school and local tribes.
  • Don't "blame the victim." Many rural communities are impacted by poverty, unemployment, and in Native communities, historically negative experiences with education, all of which can impact attendance.  Schools should be aware of these factors and approach families about problems in school in a way that seeks to help, not assign blame.

You can access the webinar and read related materials here

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