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Study: Achievement gap could be eliminated by 2020

SEATTLE – Martharose Laffey, executive director of the Washington State School Directors Association, says progress is being made in promoting government-to-government relations between school boards and tribal nations in Washington state.

But more needs to be done as school districts work to narrow the education achievement gap of American Indians and Alaska Natives in the state, Laffey told the Education Committee of the state House of Representatives.

Laffey presented “From Where the Sun Rises – Addressing the Educational Achievement of Native Americans in Washington State,” the association’s first legislative report on activities it has undertaken under a 2005 law. The law, HB 1495, encourages school districts and neighboring tribal nations to work together to develop curricula on local indigenous culture, government and history, and to focus on ways to narrow the achievement gap among Native students.

From Where the Sun Rises” states that the achievement gap can be narrowed within five years and eliminated by 2020. The report is available online at

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Among the accomplishments cited by Laffey: completion of the achievement gap study; a regional cultural education exchange with the Tribal Leaders Congress, the Tulalip Tribes and the Washington Education Association; workshops for school directors regarding HB 1495; a survey of school districts regarding existing relations with neighboring tribal councils; and development of a toolkit school boards can use to initiate and nurture government-to-government relationships.

In addition, association Vice President Deborah Heart serves as the association’s liaison for the Tribal History Project.

Richard Walker is a correspondent reporting from San Juan Island, Wash. Contact him at