Journal of American Indian Education
University of Minnesota Press
The Montana legislature’s requirement that public schools implement programs that fulfill the inclusive Indian education intent found in the state constitution is groundbreaking in U.S. educational history. Supporters of the revived Indian Education for All (IEFA) law agree that including Native perspectives in the mainstream curriculum is long overdue. Advocates often frame IEFA as an initiative that will promote transformative understanding of local American Indian tribes. The data presented in this research report relate to a learner-focused assessment of the model K-5 IEFA program initiated at Lewis and Clark Elementary School in Montana. Did this public school-based IEFA program change attitudes toward American Indians among young learners and therefore potentially improve interracial relationships among Indians and non-Indians? To assess the initiative’s impact on student learning and attitudes over two years, one of the authors, working in collaboration with teacher leaders, developed and administered a simple written survey. Survey results indicate that participating students increased their knowledge of the nearby tribe, that the program’s impact was considerable in most attitudinal domains, and that differences in individual educators’ instructional focus shaped learning outcomes in diverse ways that offer lessons about teacher effectiveness in advancing Montana’s education policy affecting Native communities. However, important issues regarding the objectives of IEFA remain to be addressed by Indian and non-Indian advocates and policy makers.
© 2010 Journal of American Indian Education and Authors.