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FY Awards

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The Role of Native Language and Culture in Decreasing Discipline Problems and Increasing Academic Achievement for American Indian/Alaska Native Students

Year: 2014
Name of Institution:
University of Oregon
Goal: Exploration
Principal Investigator:
Sprague, Jeffrey
Award Amount: $1,222,706
Award Period: 3 years (7/1/2014-6/30/2017)
Award Number: R305A140162


Co-Principal Investigators: CHiXapkaid (Michael Pavel), Tary Tobin and Claudia Vincent

Purpose: American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) students represent about 1 percent of the total U.S. school population yet they experience some of the highest dropout rates and are consistently over-represented among students identified for special education services and students suspended or expelled from school. The Native community has recommended that native language and culture be infused into school environments (e.g., by incorporating culturally relevant social skills lessons, using culturally relevant language, supporting strong parent participation) to increase AI/AN studentsí sense of belonging, positive identity development, and increased self-awareness and cultural awareness. The cultural and linguistic diversity of this population preclude identifying specific approaches to discipline and academic learning that would be equally beneficial to all AI/AN students. Instead, generalizable mechanisms for blending specific linguistic and cultural elements with discipline and academic requirements that improve student outcomes may be identifiable. Data from the National Indian Education Study (NIES) along with data from the School-wide Information System (SWIS) allow for the exploration of these recommended strategies and their relationship to education outcomes.

The purpose of this study is to explore the relationship between school personnelís use of Native Language and Culture (NLC) in discipline and instruction and the behavioral and academic outcomes of AI/AN students along with important moderators and mediators of this relationship. The findings of this exploration study will lay the foundation for the development of interventions specifically designed to benefit the academic success of these students.

Project Activities: The research team is merging data from the 2009 and 2011 NIES with discipline data collected via the SWIS from schools with a substantial AI/AN enrollment. Merging these data allows the team to explore whether use of NLC is associated with changes in specific types of inappropriate behaviors students engage in, as well as changes in the types of consequences schools administer. In the final year of the project, the team will administer a survey to schools with high AI/AN enrollment to gain more in-depth information about specific strategies teachers use to blend NLC with discipline and instruction, as well as the perceived barriers teachers face in creating discipline and instruction that is culturally meaningful to AI/AN students.

Products: The products of this project will be preliminary evidence of potentially promising Native Language and Culture practices that are associated with the academic and behavioral success of American Indian and Alaska Native students. Peer reviewed publications will also be produced.

Structured Abstract

Setting: Extant data (NIES and SWIS) were collected in schools with high AI/AN enrollment of 4th and 8th grade students nationally. The survey during the final year of the study will be administered to teachers in schools with high AI/AN enrollment.

Sample: The National Indian Education Study (NIES) provides data on a nationally representative sample of American Indian and Alaska Native 4th and 8th grade students in public, private, Department of Defense, and Bureau of Indian Education-funded schools. The two most recent surveys are used in this study: the 2009 NIES data (collected from 22,000 students, 8,400 teachers, and 4,200 administrators) and the 2011NIES data (collected from 20,500 students, 7,600 teachers, and 3,900 administrators). School-wide Information System (SWIS) data from the 2008-2009 school year comes from 33 schools with approximately 9,000 disciplinary incidents (comparable numbers are expected from the 2010-2011 school year). Survey data will be collected in the final year of the project from approximately 400 teachers across 40 schools.

Intervention: The research questions and hypotheses of this project are based on the Native communityís strong recommendation to increase the use of NLC in schools serving AI/AN students, along with research that shows the relationship between behavioral problems and academic achievement. Recommendations from the Native community focus on emphasizing NLC to decrease studentsí inappropriate behavior through culturally supportive and culturally meaningful social environments and increase studentsí perceived relevance of the curriculum and their engagement with it.

Research Design and Methods: The first two years of this study involve analyses of extant data followed by the collection of new survey data in the final year. The two-part structure of the NIES data allows examination of student performance in reading and mathematics in relation to key school environment factors (e.g. school climate, discipline). Data from SWIS users who agree to share their data for research purposes become part of a research database located at the University of Oregon. In Year 1, the researchers will test a two-level moderated mediation model using the 2009 and 2011 NIES data to determine the extent to which behavioral context mediates the effect of NLC on academic outcomes, and whether this mediating effect of behavioral context is moderated by schoolsí AI/AN enrollment density and student grade level and gender. In Year 2, the researchers will merge the NIES data with the SWIS data via NCES school identification numbers to determine if behavioral violations and disciplinary consequences vary with use of NLC and if those variations differ by student grade level, gender or race. In Year 3, the researchers will develop and administer a survey querying teachersí experiences with integrating NLC practices into their instructional and discipline practices and any perceived barriers that they encounter.

Control Condition: Due to the nature of the research design, there is no control condition.

Key Measures: The NIES School Background Questionnaire, the Teacher Background Questionnaire, and the Student Background Questionnaire will be used to assess the extent to which NLC is integrated into instructional practices, as well as measure the behavioral contexts of schools serving AI/AN students. These questionnaires were developed for 4th and 8th grade students, their reading/language arts and mathematics teachers, and their school administrators based on recommendations from The Office of Indian Education. The questionnaires ask about: 1) the extent to which NLC is part of the curriculum; 2) the availability of school resources for improving AI/AN student achievement; 3) how assessment data is used by schools with AI/AN populations; 4) involvement of AI/AN tribes, groups, or villages with the schools; and 5) how AI/AN students, teachers, and schools feel about education. NAEP scores in reading and math for 4th and 8th graders will be used to measure academic achievement. Types of behavioral violations and types of consequences are represented in the SWIS data along with student racial/ethnic background, gender, grade level, and overall enrollment by race/ethnicity. The survey used in Year 3 will measure how teachers integrate NLC into discipline and instructional strategies and the barriers they perceive in doing so.

Data Analytic Strategy: In phase 1, the research team will conduct exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses to test the construct validity of Native Language and Culture and Behavioral Context (derived from the three NIES questionnaires). The researchers will then test a 2-level moderated mediation model to determine if Behavioral Context mediates the relationship between NLC and academic outcomes, and if this relationship is moderated by school-level AI/AN enrollment density, student gender and grade level. In phase 2, the team will test a 2-level hierarchical model to determine if types of behavioral violations and consequences vary with use of NLC, and if variations differ by student grade level, gender, and race. In phase 3, the researchers will test a 2-level hierarchical model to determine if teacher survey responses differ by school and teacher demographics.