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Recruiting and Retaining Highly- Qualified Native American Teachers in New Mexico Reservation Schools Margaret (Peggy) Hotchkiss Summary of dissertation.

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Presentation on theme: "Recruiting and Retaining Highly- Qualified Native American Teachers in New Mexico Reservation Schools Margaret (Peggy) Hotchkiss Summary of dissertation."— Presentation transcript:

1 Recruiting and Retaining Highly- Qualified Native American Teachers in New Mexico Reservation Schools Margaret (Peggy) Hotchkiss Summary of dissertation presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Doctor of Education at ASU

2 What prompted this study? As an Instructional Support Teacher, I was very impressed with the talents and skills of new teachers, especially those on alternative licensure. I also saw how teacher turnover on the reservation caused problems in schools. I observed that Navajo students responded more positively to Native teachers than to non-Natives.

3 What prompted this study? As a mentor of new teachers, I was impressed by the diversity of backgrounds and motives for entering the teaching profession. I wanted to:  Find ways to recruit more Native teachers to reservation schools  Learn why retaining teachers on the reservation is such a challenge  Learn the attributes successful teachers possess that have helped them become & remain teachers.

4 The Problem Recruiting and retaining good teachers for high-needs schools is a challenge. High-needs schools have high rates of teacher turnover, high percentages of students living in poverty, and (often) low student achievement. Fulfilling the highly qualified teacher mandates of NCLB is especially difficult for these schools.

5 The Problem Rural schools: Many teachers do not want to live and work in remote, isolated areas, far from shopping, entertainment, and opportunities for professional growth. Minority Schools: Recruiting and retaining teachers for minority schools is a challenge. Poverty Schools: Poverty schools have higher rates of teacher turnover than non-poverty schools.

6 The Problem—Reservation Schools Ten of the poorest 20 counties in the United States are inhabited primarily by Native Americans (U.S. Census, 2000). McKinley County, NM, is the 20 th poorest county; neighboring Apache County, AZ, is the 10 th poorest county (U.S. Census, 2000).

7 The Problem—Reservation Schools Teachers are reluctant to teach or to remain in a teaching position on reservations due to:  Poverty  Isolation  Remote locations  Lack of amenities and infrastructure (roads, health care, shopping, entertainment, etc.)  Inability to purchase a home  The insecurity of being a racial minority  Low student achievement and student problems resulting from poverty.

8 Possible Solutions—Increase the Number of Native Teachers Native teachers (especially those reared on reservations) are more likely to remain in teaching positions on reservations than are non-Natives  Less culture shock  Housing is (usually) more available  Family and friends provide a support system  Natives are used to the isolation and remoteness of many reservation communities  They are used to the poor infrastructure.

9 Possible Solution—Increase the Number of Native Teachers Native teachers can relate to Native students better than non-Natives can. Native teachers can make lessons culturally relevant and culturally appropriate. Native teachers can better understand Native students’ thought processes and learning styles. Native teachers may speak their indigenous language and can communicate with students and parents.

10 Possible Solutions—Alternative Licensure Young adults with college degrees want to return to the reservation, but there are few jobs for educated people. Alternative routes to licensure may be a way to help increase the number of Native teachers in schools on or near reservations.

11 Research Question What factors contribute to the recruitment and retention of Native American teachers in schools on or near the Navajo Nation in New Mexico?

12 Interview Protocol-Teachers I visited with Native American teachers to learn their stories, including:  education,  previous careers (if any),  challenges they faced in their journey to the classroom,  personal strengths that helped them become teachers and that help them in the classroom,  challenges they face in the classroom,  why they chose the licensure path they pursued, and  their perceptions of the value of Native American teachers in schools with large percentages of Native students. 12

13 Interview Protocol-Teachers I asked teachers what factors have contributed to their decision to remain in the teaching profession and to remain in teaching positions in schools on or near the Navajo Reservation. 13

14 Interview Protocol—Administrators I interviewed two district administrators and four principals to learn the challenges they face in recruiting and retaining highly-qualified teachers for their schools I interviewed administrators and teachers to learn their recommendations for Native Americans who wish to become teachers and their suggestions for ways to recruit and retain highly-qualified Native teachers for reservation schools. 14

15 Interview Protocol In addition to the questions listed above, one Navajo Nation chapter asked that the study consider the value of teaching Native culture to Native students. An additional question was asked during teacher and administrator interviews: Why is it important for our students to know their culture? What benefits do you see in teaching Native culture? 15

16 Methodology Descriptive, collective case studies Interviewed 15 teachers from 5 communities Interviewed four principals Interviewed two district administrators Visited six Navajo chapters & the school board to obtain resolutions supporting the research Obtained approval from the Navajo Nation HRRB & the ASU IRB.

17 Methodology Teacher subjects were selected who:  Became licensed since 1998  Were recommended by their school’s Instructional Coaches  Represent a diversity of ages, genders, tribes, backgrounds, and teaching assignments.  Subjects are representative of the Native teachers in the district (assignments, gender, subjects).

18 Subjects’ backgrounds Business owner Factory worker DWI program administrator Community librarian Artist Motion picture actor Wild land firefighter Military Physician Health educator Day care worker Educational assistant Post-secondary instructor Social worker Staff of youth residential treatment center

19 Who are the subjects? Three males; twelve females Three high school; three middle school; nine elementary school Ages: Teaching experience: 0-12 years Tribes: Zuni, Choctaw-Wyandotte, Apache, Cherokee, Navajo Licensure pathways: 9 alternative; 6 traditional Two completed college while working as educational assistants.

20 Who are the administrator subjects? 4 principals 2 district administrators One male; five females Three Natives; three non-Natives Experience in education ranges from years All administrators have at least five years of administrative experience. 20

21 Findings Themes—personal attributes of teachers:  Sense of mission  Sense of calling to teach  Perseverance & resilience  Rise to challenges  Love of learning  Patience

22 Findings: Sense of Mission “We [Navajos] feel intimidated when we leave our immediate world, because we do not have the same experiences, because we do not always have the same education. And I don’t think that there really is an expectation that we can learn what everybody else can learn, and I think that has to stop.”

23 Implications: Sense of Mission We must improve the education of reservation students, K-12, so that they can compete with students off the reservation.  All teachers must hold high expectations for all students, Native and non-Native.

24 Implications: Sense of Mission As educators, we need to help students see that the value of education is being able to help their people. This can best be done by:  Taking students on field trips off the reservation.  Letting them observe Chapter and Tribal governments in action.  Empowering them to solve real-life problems in their schools, communities, and on the reservation.

25 Findings: Calling to Teach “I’ve been thinking of moving to another grade, but I like seeing the growth in first grade. The students come to first grade and they still have that kindergarten mentality. Then all of a sudden, in January or February, they go to the next level. That gives me the encouragement to go on. I love seeing that growth!”

26 Implications: Calling to Teach Some subjects suggested that we encourage middle and high school students to consider teaching. Having students tutor their peers or younger students would provide a taste of the teaching experience.

27 Implications: Calling to Teach Twelve of the 15 subjects indicated that teaching was not their first career choice when they were younger, and 9 teachers were alternatively certified. Some had wanted to be teachers in childhood, but changed their minds in college. Others came to teaching after time in the military or other careers. Knowing this, educators should actively recruit college graduates who may not have degrees in education.  Administrators need to understand New Mexico’s alternative licensure pathways.

28 Findings: Perseverance and resilience Teachers did not identify resilience and/or perseverance as strengths. Rather, these attributes were threads that were woven through their stories:  Going to college while raising a family; taking classes and teaching while pregnant and caring for new infants  Completing college in spite of financial hardship, family obligations, or health problems.

29 Implications: Perseverance and resilience Fostering resilience in today’s youth is crucial if we are to improve student achievement, lower the drop-out rate, and develop a pool of potential college graduates who can become teachers. Research (Malloy & Allen, 2007) indicates that building resiliency also helps improve teacher retention in rural schools.

30 Implications: Perseverance and resilience Schools should develop resiliency-building programs for both staff and students. Native cultures traditionally have developed resiliency in their youth (Strand & Peacock, 2003).  Native culture experts should be included in developing a resiliency curriculum.

31 Findings: Ability to confront challenges “Also, my general ability to confront a challenge [is a strength]. If I find something hard, I don’t leave it at that, I go further. I don’t settle [for less] often.” “I know the challenges of being a minority and having no opportunities.” “It’s the challenge that keeps me going.”

32 Implications: Ability to confront challenges Students need to be given opportunities to face challenges in a safe and nurturing environment. Solving real life problems is one way that students can confront challenges and reap the rewards of their successes.

33 Findings: Love of learning “My general personality is [that] I love learning. I love subjects that I have no idea what they’re about- -and really getting into that.”

34 Implications: Love of learning Given high reservation drop-out rates, high student absenteeism, and the negative attitudes many Native students and their parents have towards school and learning, it is exciting to find Native individuals who love to learn. If those teachers can share their enthusiasm for learning with their students, perhaps some of the negativity towards education can be reversed. The more opportunities students have to engage in personally relevant learning activities, the more likely they are to develop a love of learning.

35 Findings: Patience “I think the most important strength that I have is patience now. I’ve learned to wait and see the whole picture, instead of react.”

36 Implications: Additional strengths that help in classroom Most teachers found that being Native enhanced their ability to relate to students and to communicate with parents and staff. Teachers also value receiving feedback from administrators, coaches, and/or colleagues.  We need to ensure that new teachers are provided with mentors who are able to observe them in the classroom and coach them in order to improve their teaching practice.  Instructional coaching (from coaches, colleagues, and/or administrators) is very valuable for all teachers, but especially for new teachers.

37 Additional Findings Challenges Perceptions of the value of Native teachers  Positive  Negative Value of teaching Native Culture

38 Findings: Challenges faced in classroom-- colleagues “It’s been a challenge for me to work with a new [grade level] partner every year. I’m trying to adjust to new students and every year, I’ve also had to adjust to a new teacher. Most of the teachers have been brand new [alternative licensure teachers], so that’s been hard.”

39 Implications: Challenges faced in classroom--colleagues The high rate of teacher turnover in some reservation schools is demoralizing for staff. It is very difficult to build a successful instructional team when a large percentage of the school’s staff often is new each year.  Administrators should make it a priority to recruit teachers who are likely to stay at the school for more than a few years  Developing a culture of collegiality that encourages retention also should be a priority for administrators and staff. The perception that some Native teachers are lazy or not well-prepared also needs to be addressed.  All teachers need to be held to the same high expectations.

40 Implications: Challenges faced in classroom Discipline: Administrators need to ensure that new teachers receive coaching and mentoring in effective classroom management techniques. Schools also need to develop a comprehensive behavior policy, such as Positive Behavior Supports. Diverse Needs: New teachers need to receive training in techniques to address the needs of various learners, including special needs students and ELLs.

41 Findings: Value of Native educators + “Students would be able to not hold back all their information, but could give their potential to that [Native] teacher. Sometimes, students will hold back on things--put a shell around themselves--when they have a teacher who does not understand their culture. The parents, grandparents, or guardians of the children will feel more comfortable with a Native American teacher. They will feel more comfortable sharing things that happen in the school or at home with a Native teacher.”

42 Implications: Value of Native educators + Administrators need to actively recruit Native educators. Most of the teachers in the study did not plan to become teachers. We need to cast our recruiting nets farther than traditional teacher training programs and encourage Natives who have earned college degrees to enter the teaching profession. Administrators should encourage parents and assistants to complete college and become licensed to teach.

43 Findings: Negative perceptions of Native educators “Probably the biggest challenge that I’m seeing for them [Native teachers] is in the writing areas. They really need to focus in high school and in those early college years to perfect those writing skills. As educators, as teachers, we really need to start perfecting those writing skills in the elementary years.” Administrator.

44 Findings: Negative perceptions of Native educators “And there’s some animosity [on the part of parents] towards Navajo teachers. For me, it doesn’t matter [what race you are] as long as you have a commitment to Navajo children.”

45 Implications: Negative perceptions of Native educators We need to ensure that current students are given the literacy, numeracy, and critical thinking skills that will enable them to be successful in college and in life. Districts should work with local colleges to ensure that future teachers are equipped with writing and critical thinking skills so that they can teach these skills to their students. Districts should help current teachers develop and hone these skills.

46 Findings: Value of Native Culture “We wonder why there’s so much violence and so much—really—hate, and there’s no self-respect anymore….That wasn’t here when we had real values in our culture. There was a real understanding of who you were, where you came from, who your family was, and where your home was. And because those teachings of your home—this is where the fire is, everything you need to live is here in this place—these kids nowadays don’t have that.”

47 Implications—Native culture It is imperative that schools serving large percentages of Native American students provide classes in Native culture and language. (These are required by law in New Mexico.) All teachers (Native and non-Native) need to understand Native culture and need to embed culturally-responsive pedagogy into their teaching practice. Students tend to learn better when culture is used to “hook” their interest and instill excitement about learning. All teachers should honor and validate the culture of the students in their classrooms.

48 Conclusions—Recruiting teachers Work by several researchers has indicated that alternative routes may be a viable option for recruiting and training minority teachers (Feistritzer, 2007; Villegas & Lucas, 2005). Nine of the 15 subjects were alternatively licensed teachers who have been in positions at their schools for at least two years. Instructional Coaches recommended these teachers for this study, based on their work with these teachers.

49 Conclusions—Recruiting teachers Some researchers (Berliner, 2000; Darling- Hammond, 2008) believe that “under-licensed” teachers are harmful to students. However, what appears to be more harmful to students and schools is the excessive turnover that often results when alternatively licensed teachers are not comfortable with Native culture, the challenges of teaching under-achieving students, and the realities of living on a reservation.  Administrators should recruit teachers who are likely to remain on the reservation for more than a few years.

50 Implications—Retaining teachers Implications that are unique to reservation schools include:  Provide housing and security in teacherage areas  Provide increased rural stipends  Establish professional learning communities, K-12, in remote areas  Make professional development opportunities more available to teachers or teachers-in-training who live in remote areas (both district-sponsored trainings and university courses).  Provide resiliency training for teachers.

51 Conclusions—Retaining teachers Tribes and districts need to collaborate to provide programs that will support new Native teachers, especially those who are on Alternative licensure. A system of coaching, monthly seminars, and collegial support similar to that developed by Teach for America has been suggested as a possibility.

52 Recommendations—Educating Native Americans We need to:  improve Native students’ critical thinking skills.  focus on writing K-12.  help prospective teachers prepare for the NMTA.  ensure that Native teachers are trained in the latest research-based pedagogy.  ensure that Natives know their culture and the cultures of the area.  implement culturally-relevant curricula.

53 Summary “And I don’t think that there really is an expectation that we can learn what everybody else can learn, and I think that has to stop.” I think that this statement is probably the most important message gleaned from this study. We must hold our students to the same expectations as students in non-reservation schools. And we must provide our students with quality educations.

54 What recommendations do you have for future research on the Navajo Nation? Some teachers indicated that parents and community members are biased against Native teachers. Teachers also indicated that some Native teachers are lazy, or are not willing to go the extra mile for kids. More research needs to be conducted to determine how widespread these perceptions are and the validity of the perceptions. Challenges:  Getting people to admit that there are biases against Native teachers may be difficult.

55 What recommendations do you have for future research on the Navajo Nation? Longitudinal studies should be conducted to compare retention rates of alternatively and traditionally licensed Native teachers. Challenges:  Gaining access to district or school personnel files may be difficult, since the data are confidential.

56 What recommendations do you have for future research on the Navajo Nation? Student achievement data should be compared to determine the effectiveness of Native teachers compared to non-Native teachers. Challenges:  Gaining access to student achievement data is very difficult!

57 What recommendations do you have for future research on the Navajo Nation? Alternatively and traditionally-licensed teachers’ teaching skills should be compared, using a classroom walk- through rubric or administrator and/or instructional coach observations. Challenges:  The researcher would need to conduct the walk- throughs in order to avoid problems with inter-rater reliability.

58 How the Navajo Nation can help new teachers: Create a support network, similar to that provided by Teach for America for its corps members.  Provide Native mentors for new Native teachers  Provide workshops for new teachers, both Native and non-Native  Provide resources for schools to help new teachers better understand Diné culture.

59 Final thoughts… I am very honored to have been able to visit with the educators in this study. They are very competent, caring, and creative individuals who are committed to our kids and to improving the life of the Diné. I believe that committed, capable teachers are key to improving education on the Navajo Nation, and ultimately, to solving the problems that confront the Diné.

60 Friendship Basket, Mary H. Black, Navajo. The importance of family and neighborly support is the focus of this basket. Family is without a doubt the most important aspect of the Navajo culture. There is a built-in support system within the family, which is essential to their survival in this vast and open country. Neighbors are important for many of the same reasons. In this basket, the small black spot in the center of the basket represents the growth and emergence of the Navajo people from the mythical lower worlds. The four rainbow segments surrounding the opening guard and protect this sacred place. The people–family, friends and neighbors–all join hands in friendship.


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