CWU News

CWU Looks to Advance Native American Educational Opportunities

The next generation of Central Washington University-trained teachers will be more prepared to support American Indian students. That’s the view of CWU Education, Development, Teaching and Learning (EDTL) department professor Khodi Kaviani, who is working with his colleagues to make that vision a reality. Kaviani and fellow EDTL professor Linda Velie were among more than 100 attendees at a recent virtual panel discussion with native education leaders, hosted by the Washington State Board of Education.

The topics included the troubling 24 percent Native American student dropout rate from the state K-12 system, along with efforts to reverse that trend by raising awareness of the 29 federally recognized tribes in Washington. Since 2015, state law has required K-12 schools to teach the history and culture of Washington tribes through programs such as the Since Time Immemorial curriculum.

“That curriculum has been valuable in my social studies methods courses,” Kaviani said of the program, which pertains to state tribal sovereignty. “I give full emphasis on Native American culture as the background knowledge and context in my social studies [teaching] methods classes. The teacher candidates develop instructional lessons on topics related to Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest.”

The panelists included representatives from the OSPI Office of Native Education, Chief Kitsap Academy, North Thurston Public Schools Native Student Program, the Nisqually Tribal Council, and a State-Tribal Education Compact School in Poulsbo, operated by the Suquamish Education Department.

Velie, previously a K-12 literacy instructor on Native American reservations in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota says the meeting allowed a wide range of people and organizations to get acquainted as they work to improve Washington state’s American Indian educational system.

“It will be beneficial to be able to collaborate with all of the Native America educators, especially through the connections Central has with community colleges across Washington,” she said. “It will help us in our outreach to more quickly interface with the right people.”

The fact that CWU’s Ellensburg campus and its eight university centers and instructional sites across the state are located on indigenous peoples’ lands has undoubtedly influenced Kaviani’s curriculum. Expanding the connections with Native American educational leaders will also play a role moving forward, he believes.

“They are willing to come to my classes to share their specific knowledge of Native American culture and history,” he said. “That is important in raising awareness of the [educational] issues.”