Kara Stewart, a reading resource teacher and a member of the Sappony tribe, contributed this article.
Title IX is a program vitally important to the education of Native American children across the nation. It is a provision of the U.S. Elementary and Secondary Education Act that provides federal funding for after-school enrichment activities, cultural activities, and other programs to schools with a Native American teacher, at least ten Native American students, or student bodies that are at least 25 percent Native American.
In many North Carolina counties, the Indian population attending schools within a county’s borders may or may not originate in that county (for example, Lumbee families may move from Robeson County, where they historically originate, to Guilford County and therefore be included in Guilford County’s statistics, just like any other population may move to different areas of the state and country). However, all Indian students in Person County schools are Sappony. No Indians that have identified themselves as belonging to other Indian groups have moved to Person County, and thus the Title IX statistics for Person County are representative of the children of the Sappony alone. Conversely, there are students who identify themselves as Sappony living in other counties of the state and other areas of the country who are not included in Person County statistics.
Dorothy Crowe is an educator and member of the Sappony. Her experience as a teacher includes her involvement in Person County’s Title IX program, where she is home-to-school coordinator. Person County’s Title IX program currently has thirty students and has been operating for about twenty years. There are several things that make the students of this Title IX program different from those of other counties. First, since the inception of the program, there has not been an Indian dropout in Person County. Second, Indian students in Person County have high End of Grade (EOG) test proficiency rates.
Crowe chooses Person County’s Title IX activities based on the needs of the students, whom she sees as needing cultural enrichment programs rather than after-school tutoring, based on the students’ EOG scores and academic performance. To be eligible to choose cultural enrichment programs instead of additional academic tutoring for Title IX children, the Local Education Agency (LEA) must show 80 percent proficiency on EOGs. While Person County Indian students have demonstrated 100 percent proficiency for years, according to Crowe, this year’s (2001) score was 83 percent—still proficient but an unwelcome disintegration that needs to be addressed.
Because of the fairly isolated area in which the Sappony (and many other Indian groups) live and the limited economic resources available to them, many Indian students benefit from activities that expose them to the world at large. The activities that Person County Title IX students have participated in include field trips to natural and historic sites in North Carolina and Virginia.
While not limited strictly to Indian cultural activities, exposure to powwows, Indian museums and other Indian cultural events help give students a sense of their Indian identity and pride, in addition to the general worldly knowledge gained by traveling.
The Person County Title IX program also educates students about the other seven state-recognized tribes and visits one outdoor powwow per year to let students see other Indian youth from other groups. The group has been to the Lumbee, Haliwa-Saponi, and Guilford Native American Association powwows for that experience, since powwows are not part of the heritage of the Sappony.
To further expose Indian children to the world and develop their cultural literacy and sophistication, each child receives an age-appropriate magazine subscription, which currently includes Wee Wisdom, Ranger Rick, Geographic World, National Geographic and American History.
Teachers should be aware that while Native American students in their classrooms may not have the opportunity to participate in the Title IX program, there are ways that educators can assist them.
Make available to students a broad range of text and ideas. Classroom subscriptions to local, national, and even international newspapers are a great way to broaden horizons; so too, with classroom magazine subscriptions.
Field trips also expand students’ worlds and provide opportunities for cultural sophistication.
If academics are in question, work with Native American students and families to provide additional tutoring and relentlessly stress the importance of academic excellence.
And, of course, be sensitive to financial constraints and develop alternative methods of continuing to provide these crucial activities for students.