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Sun Aug 9, 2020, 07:34 AM

The Federal Government Gives Native Students an Inadequate Education, and Gets Away With It

A couple of months after Kimasha Shorty’s son started sixth grade at an Arizona public middle school, his teachers called her at home. He had trouble adding and subtracting and was struggling to read at grade level.

Shorty didn’t understand how it was possible that her oldest child could be so far behind after leaving Wide Ruins Community School, the sole elementary school in an area of about 1,000 residents at the southern edge of the Navajo Nation. He had been diagnosed with a mild learning disability that affects reading and math comprehension, but Shorty said he was doing so well by fourth grade that he skipped a grade at the urging of administrators and began attending a public middle school about 25 miles south in Sanders.

There, her son was far behind his classmates, many of whom did not grow up in his rural community and didn’t spend their early years at an elementary school overseen by the Bureau of Indian Education, a little-known federal agency that manages more than 180 schools and dormitories across the country.

Year after year, a similar pattern emerged for Shorty, the mother of nine children. Her daughter’s middle school math class started with geometry, but her fifth grade at the elementary school had barely touched long division.


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