A $994,000 grant will fortify Northern Arizona University’s role as a leader in educating K-12 principals to work in American Indian schools.
The grant, from the U.S. Department of Education, supports a four-year project to increase the number of well-trained K-12 principals for schools on American Indian reservations, said Joseph Martin, principal investigator on the grant and an NAU associate professor of educational leadership.
The objective of the “principal certificate” program is to add 25 K-12 principals by 2012 to serve in schools on the Navajo Nation, Hopi, San Carlos Apache and White Mountain reservations.
The program is open to qualified American Indian teachers, who will have their college tuition and associated fees paid. Classes will be provided through NAU’s Extended Campuses. Within six months of qualifying, participants will go to work in schools with large populations of American Indian students.
“Principals assume a myriad of responsibilities that are important in running a school, but many of these duties are not essential to improving student achievement,” said Martin, who on Aug. 1 assumes his new role as NAU special advisor on Native American issues. “Our students will receive a broad base of knowledge and skills and achieve clarity on what is essential as well as what is important.”
He added that about 75 percent of the administrators in regional reservations schools do not understand the cultural traditions of the local communities, do not speak the language, or remain on the job for extended periods.
More than 40 percent of American Indian students fail to graduate from high school, Martin said.
“The drop-out rate is high because there is a lack of strong and well-trained principals to address American Indian student needs,” he said. “There are no documented instances of high need schools being turned around without intervention by a powerful leader. Many other factors may play a role in such turnarounds, but leadership is key.”