Improving American Indian Education Digitally

A report released by the Goldwater Institute suggests virtual learning as a viable option for Native American students in Arizona.

A recent report released by the Goldwater Institute, an independent public policy research organization out of Arizona, suggests the best way to improve educational opportunities for American Indian students is through digital technologies.

The report, titled “Digital Learning: Improved Educational Opportunities for American Indian Students,” even calls for the BIE to create a Federal Bureau of Indian Education Virtual Schools.

Of the some 300,000 American Indians in Arizona, 59,000 of them are students. And according to the National Center for Educational Statistics, those Native students score below the state average on the National Assessment of Educational Progress reading and math tests.

The Goldwater Institute suggests that to end poverty—in 2008, 31 percent of Native kids lived in poverty compared to 19 percent of the general population—state and federal governments have to expand educational opportunities for those at-risk students.

“Due to innovations in digital or virtual learning programs, past geographical constraints in education should no longer prevent children from accessing world-class instruction from the best possible teachers,” the report states. “For American Indian students in Arizona and other states, digital or virtual learning programs offer the potential to increase access to high-quality instruction, particularly for students attending rural schools that have a harder time attracting the most talented teachers.”

The report uses the federal Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA), which has a Virtual School Program to increase education options for children of military personnel, as an example of an existing program that could be used as a model for a Native option.

“To better accomplish its current mission, the Bureau of Indian Education could similarly offer a federal American Indian Virtual School to serve children who are eligible for BIE programs,” the report says.

Read the full report on the Goldwater Institute website.