Survey results on the impact of COVID-19 on American Indian K-12 students in California released

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California Indian Education For All releases key summary findings on access to technology, support for special needs students, childcare, nutrition, and social isolation for American Indian/Alaska Native students

News Release

California Indian Education For All

The COVID-19 crisis has brought with it an educational inequity crisis in the United States and California. Data from a recent survey assesses American Indian student academic needs during the COVID-19 pandemic and results show how broad the pandemic's impact on education for this community might continue to be. The survey was led by the nonprofits California Indian Education for All (CIEFA) and the California Indian Culture and Sovereignty Center (CICSC), in

partnership with, the California Indian Museum and Cultural Center (CIMCC) and the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE).

A CIEFA survey found that one in four American Indian and Alaskan Native (AIAN) students in California does not have access to a computer and reliable internet access.

“Advocacy is critical because Covid-19 has made visible the structural inequities that plague our education systems and nowhere is that more evident than within our California American Indian and Alaskan Native student populations, said Nicole Myers-Lim, Director, The California Indian Museum and Cultural Center.

CIEFA research team found that childcare has been an ongoing challenge for families with nearly half of all those surveyed experiencing gaps. 

The summary findings, released Friday were based on an online survey in an effort to support American Indian and Alaskan Native students in California who have been historically underserved. The survey was conducted from May to June 2020 and represented 97 Tribes. The research study received Instructional Review Board (IRB) approval in accordance with the California State University, San Marcos IRB procedures for research involving human subjects.

The survey underscored that extensive research is needed to determine the rate of learning disabilities and differences throughout Indian Country.

Over all one in eight students receives special education services in the state of California. Additional data is needed specific to American Indian and Alaskan Native students. During the pandemic, it is critical that American Indian and Alaskan Native students and parents have increased access to and resources for assessment, diagnosis, and distance learning support if we are going to effectively work to counteract these negative outcomes.

• The survey found that 44% of respondents reported a learning difference or disability.

• 13% of respondents indicated they had no access to specialist for their special needs’ child due to COVID19.

• 19% of respondents indicated they had limited access to specialist for their special needs’ child due to COVID19.

For many American Indian and Alaskan Native families in California, COVID-19 pandemic and distance learning are impacting students’ ability to access consistent nutrition and counteract social isolation through connection to their teachers, peers, and community and cultural activities.

• More than 40% of families surveyed rely on their school for meals.

• Nearly one in 10 families said there is sometimes or often not enough to eat at home.

• 36% of students’ psychological well-being has worsen due to COVID-19.

• Survey found that nearly 70% of students are not getting enough physical exercise as a result of COVID-19.

• Survey found that 45% of families experienced a decrease in income during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many Tribes and tribal community organizations are working to increase protective factors to address both the educational and emotional and physical well-being needs of American Indian and Alaskan Native students, as well as counteract negative outcomes of historical trauma. This will take enormous resources, infrastructure and strategies to fill the gaps caused by COVID-19. 

“I want to thank all the organizations who participated in this review of COVID-19’s path of destruction in our communities. Their findings revealed what we suspected – the disease was especially vicious among communities of color. In my own American Indian Alaska Native community was almost two times that of White people. The study also begins the process of digging deeper into why these communities suffered disproportionally to their populations. It is critical that studies like these continue so that we can undertake the difficult work of remedying disparities.” Assemblymember James C. Ramos

It is clear that our American Indian families in California are experiencing disproportionate impacts and as educators, policy makers, and advocates, immediate action and investment is needed.

About California Indian Education for All

California Indian Education (CIEFA) for all is a nonprofit that exists to help teachers and schools educate children and youth about the diverse histories, cultures and contributions of California Native peoples. California Indian Education’s goals are to create culturally responsive resources that improve representations and classroom climates for teaching and learning about California's first people. For more information, please visit www.californiaindianeducationforall.com. Follow California Indian Education on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

About California Indian Culture & Sovereignty Center

The California Indian Culture & Sovereignty Center (CICSC) fosters collaborative research and community service relationships between the faculty, staff, and students of California State University San Marcos and members of Tribal communities, for the purpose of developing and conducting research projects that support the maintenance of sovereignty and culture within those communities. For more information, visit www.csusm.edu/cicsc/. Follow California Indian Culture & Sovereignty Center on Facebook and Instagram.

About the California Indian Museum and Cultural Center

The purpose of the California Indian Museum and Cultural Center is to culturally enrich and benefit the people of California and the general public. The goals of the Museum and Cultural Center are to educate the public about California Indian history and cultures, to showcase California Indian cultures, to enhance and facilitate these cultures and traditions through educational and cultural activities, to preserve and protect California Indian cultural and intellectual properties, and to develop relationships with other indigenous groups. For more information, visit www.cimcc.org.

About the San Diego County Office of Education:

The San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) is inspiring and leading innovation in education so that all students can thrive in a future without boundaries. The County Office helps the county’s school districts operate efficiently and with significant cost savings by leveraging resources to perform personnel tasks and provide staff development and other services. With a focus on equity, innovation, and career technical education, San Diego County Office of Education directly educates more than 3,000 students at more than 20 sites each year and provides support services to more than 500,000 students across 42 school districts. For additional information on how San Diego County Office of Education is innovating education and working to guarantee all students graduate prepared for college, career, and life, visit www.sdcoe.net

For more information, please visit www.californiaindianeducationforall.com and all major social media platforms @cie4all. 

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