Using Bright Spots in South Dakota Indian Country to Increase Native American Student Achievement

For more information on
this project, please contact:
Deb Thorstenson

The South Dakota Department of Education (SD DOE) and the South Dakota Department of Tribal Relations, Office of Indian Education (SD DTR-OIE) are working to examine and improve the systemic supports available to Native American students and communities. This work is guided by the following opportunity statement:

Traditional Western educational systems perpetuate, and in some cases exacerbate, inequities in opportunities for Native American students and communities. Systems are fragmented, with educators who serve Native American students at the intersection of different requirements, regulations, funding opportunities, and constraints. These factors inhibit the capacity of educators to pursue evidence-based educational practices and approaches. However, they also present an opportunity to examine the “bright spots,” where despite these conditions educators embrace the intelligence of Native American children, use educational practices that draw from and build on indigenous knowledge, and reduce inequities.

R11CC will collaborate with SD DOE and SD DTR-OIE to identify existing practices associated with positive Native American student outcomes in South Dakota schools. R11CC, SD DOE, and SD DTR-OIE will work with stakeholders such as tribal education agencies, the Indian Education Advisory Council, the Bureau of Indian Education, districts, and schools to improve their capacity to define, implement, and share practices and interventions that are culturally responsive and improve Native American student achievement and success. Long-term outcomes associated with this project include increased kinship, harmony, and cultural empathy between Native and non-Native South Dakotans; a scaled implementation of the Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings and Standards and other evidence-based practices for teaching indigenous knowledge; increased reciprocity and reduced institutional barriers to collaboration among agencies; and increased Native American student academic achievement scores.