on Indian Education Held at UNCP
Mike Ward, State Superintendent
of Public Instruction, Zoe Locklear, Dean of School of Education
and Chancellor Allen C. Meadors
Three hundred educators
and leaders, including State Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr.
Mike Ward, gathered at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke
May 29-30 to discuss challenges facing American Indians students in
Robeson and Hoke counties.
entitled "Rediscovering the Collective Strength of the Circle,"
discussed the federal No Child Left Behind Act and how it applies to
American Indians and other minority students.
that matter most are our most vulnerable of children," said Dr.
Ward. "If white children dropped out at the same rate as Native
American children, African American children and Latino children, we
would declare a national emergency, and we would do something about
it," said Dr. Ward.
to our economy that we solve this problem," he said. "It matters
to communities, it matters to moms and dads."
The two-day conference
covered topics sensitive to the region, including drop-out rates and
standardized testing. It was sponsored by UNCP's First
Americans' Teacher Education (FATE) committee, which is a three-year,
$465,000 federally-funded program to recruit and counsel Native American
The conference was
also a platform for American Indians to share their culture, said Dr.
Brenda Dial Deese, FATE coordinator. A total of 42 seminars presented
challenges facing minority students and strategies on dealing with them
in the classroom.
FATE helps students
by awarding scholarships and connects them with schools that have significant
American Indian student populations. Dr. Deese estimated that 75 prospective
American Indian teachers have been helped so far, and that interest
in the program is gaining strength.
it is so important to have American Indian teachers is that children
need positive role models," said Dr. Deese. "Our grany is
renewable, and I believe we can double the number of American Indian
For a number of
years, there was a decline in the number teachers - including American
Indian teachers - but that may be changing with the FATE program in
place and overall teacher recruitment up 77 percent over the past two
years at UNCP.
Allen C. Meadors praised teacher recruitment efforts at UNCP's School
of Education and echoed the sentiments that more minority teachers must
be recruited and trained to deal with the specific problems facing the
"It is critical
that we close the achievement gap and to make sure every child has at
least a high school education," he said. "And, we can never
back off on that."
Guest speaker Gongshu
Zhang, a consultant for the State Department of Public Instruction,
addressed the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and the push to raise
"Can we reach
the NCLB standards? From the bottom of my heart, I say, it depends,"
Zhang said that
to close the achievement gap, teaching methods would have to be changed,
as well as the hiring of minority teachers and others with experience
with special-needs students.
in Robeson and Hoke counties perform slightly higher than the median,
"This was O.K.
for history, but not for the future," he said.
On day two of the
conference, a panel of seven high school dropouts took the stage and
told their stories.
"When my school
merged with a bigger one, I wasn't fitting in right anymore," said
Judy Jones, who dropped out at 15. "And there was nobody at home
to tell me I couldn't drop out," she said.
Reasons for dropping
out ranged from peer alienation to unsupportive home environments. Some
of the dropouts said they had sibling-like relationships with parents
that made dismissing pleas to return to school easier.
UNCP's role in the
equation is to actively recruit more teachers who can relate to this
environment and to train them to help close the achievement gap and
build a future together, said Dr. Zoe Locklear, dean of the School of
our student-teachers, we will be able to address the needs of the region
more effectively, " Dr. Locklear said. "We want to focus,
not just on closing the achievement gaps, but on building children's
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