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Closing the achievement gap: success through blending culture, academics

1ConnectW12coverSm.jpgA new Urban Indian Education Partnership among Anishinabe Academy, Minneapolis Public Schools, and the College of Education and Human Development is creating ways to improve student performance by fully integrating academic instruction with cultural teachings and American Indian approaches to learning. The cover story, "Culture Matters," in the winter 2012 issue of Connect magazine describes an inspiring partnership that is closing the achievement gap for Native American students.

The story highlights the challenging yet successful work of Jennifer McComas, Rodney Wallace Professor in the Department of Educational Psychology, and Ida Downwind, program facilitator for the school district's Department of Indian Education. Thanks to their leadership, and the efforts of many teachers at Anishinabe and graduate students from CEHD, the program is showing positive results for students in reading and other areas.

"The data showed us that, indeed, culture and academic rigor are both necessary, and that neither one alone is sufficient to produce desired outcomes for students," says McComas. "It's very exciting."

As a result of this success, the Urban Indian Education Partnership is expanding its work to other schools during the 2011-12 school year. Also, the partnership will continue to use instructional practices identified by McComas and Downwind, who hope for further implementation of the practices and improvement in student outcomes.

"We're seeing in our data and data collected from other studies across the country that the more enculturated students are, the more likely they are to succeed," says McComas.

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