Monday, August 8, 2016

TPEP 2.0: Is a Growth Mindset Just for Students?

What is making the difference in districts, schools and classrooms experiencing success with the new evaluation model in Washington State and those that are struggling?  Is it new and better evaluation forms? Student growth goal-setting? Binders and binders of evidence? Or is it a difference that is parallel to one we see in the classrooms of effective teachers in our schools: a belief that people can grow and have the potential to learn under the right conditions? Conditions that include systems of support, a fearless press to strive for excellence, and trust between evaluator and educational professional. With the right mindset and these conditions, evaluation can move beyond pre-judgment, judgment and a punitive system, to the actual growth that we intend for all in our system: students and staff alike.

One of the six Core Principles that underpin the TPEP philosophy states: “Professional learning is a key component of an effective evaluation system.”  Let us consider how this principle supports evaluators bringing a growth mindset to the TPEP table.  The words “professional learning,” imply that teachers/educational professionals should not be considered a finished product.  We should continually seek new learning to improve our practice. This principle calls us to continue to learn, i.e. grow.  If we are expected to grow, then those who are helping us reflect on and monitor our growth, and ultimately judge that growth against a rubric, should believe that we have the potential to improve. Evaluators in a successful growth-centered culture, must initially view the people they are evaluating as having the capacity to grow and learn, or the evaluation could be completed after an initial observation in the early part of the school year. If we are setting goals and monitoring progress, then we should give time and opportunity for practice, and, yes, possibly a failed attempt, followed by another try to improve. How many of us view our own evaluation process as an opportunity to say, with learning and effort I can become better at this practice or that piece of the framework?  How many of us have already decided, “I am not good at that instructional strategy, so I’m not going to try it”?

We should have high expectations for growth for ourselves, and press each other to improve.  But do evaluators come to the evaluation process with a growth mindset for us? Desire for growth needs to occur to keep us from becoming complacent, or to move us to the uncomfortable space of recognizing blind spots or areas for growth.  In order for us to grow as professionals through the evaluation process, systems of support must be in place. Just as we would not expect a student to grow without support, we cannot set a non-negotiable for teachers to grow without providing supports including time, resources, and the ability to risk. The ability to risk costs nothing, but risk can be personally costly.  Time and resources have the potential to be a financial drain.  But does it cost much to have a conversation a couple of times a week to check on someone’s progress, or listen to questions about the risk that has been taken and give a bit of feedback?  The act of paying attention and listening to someone reflect on the risks he is taking, including progress and setbacks, can have a positive impact on the relationship between the evaluator and evaluee, and may provide more insight than a binder of evidence presented at the culmination of the school year, when no adjustments can be made. Trust, challenge and support are the ingredients that undergird a growth mindset that can powerfully affect the evaluation process in a productive way.

As we start the new school year, and another round of TPEP begins, we should try bringing the same growth mindset to the evaluation process that we grant our students.
Evaluators, do you arrive at the pre-observation conference with a fixed or a growth mindset? Do you have ways to support teachers as they risk and take chances that will lead to their growth?  Do you spend the time necessary to build trust that enhances your ability to push them to the next level of performance? Evaluees, do you believe you can and should grow, learn and improve? 

Instead of revamping the evaluation forms again, or creating a new list of evidence to be collected this year, what if we focused on setting high expectations and creating a growth mindset for adults that the evaluation process could be used to facilitate and affirm that growth? At the end of the day, what could a little optimism and belief in potential hurt?

Submitted by:
Heidi Hellner-Gomez
Executive Director of Instructional Leadership
Sunnyside School District

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Why Do I Want to Be a Teacher?

Many current practitioners in the field of education are often asked, “Why would you want to be a teacher?”  Frustrating as the tone of that question is, it’s also easy to understand where this often-cynical question finds root, and I can’t say that I necessarily blame the general public for their derision.  After all, our foundational frameworks of understanding education in general, and teaching specifically, is often informed by our interactions with TV shows, 24-hour news channels, political debate, etc.  Teaching is one of the few professions that nearly all members of society have interacted with for the majority of their lives (as either student or parent).  School is a common bond, with uncommon experiences, and it’s those negative (or uncommon dare I say “unexpected”?) experiences that inform the motivation of politicians and bureaucrats who seek to “reform.” It’s also rooted in the skepticism formulated by news stories in today’s 24-hour cycle; and that cynicism is also the driver for negative characterization of teachers as portrayed in popular TV shows and movies. Why would you want to be a teacher?  An article in the Washington Post (June, 2015) highlighted the top five reasons why teachers quit:
  •   Reality vs. Idealism (The gap between pre-service and in-service)
  • Lack of Respect (See above)
  • Paperwork (grading, assessment, report cards, etc…)
  • Environment (Valued Added Measures (VAM) based evaluations – Fear)
  • Will I have a job? (Probably not a current reality in Washington State)

However, what happens when “would you” is replaced with “do I?” as in, “Why do I teach?”  Suddenly the tone changes from defensive to proactive. It postulates a sense of optimism and hope for a profession worthy of both! As Director of Student Teaching, I have the distinct privilege of working in an environment where young aspiring teachers come to us with a sense of urgency to step in and step up to help change the world one child at a time.  As they grow and mature in their training, the rose-colored glasses fade just a bit as they begin to see the realities and challenges presented by the issues in today’s classrooms (over assessment, poverty, racial inequities, language barriers, etc…).  The barriers for these pre-service teachers become opportunities and for so many they move toward certification with a renewed sense of purpose and belonging.

Annually the new “doe-eyed” student comes into my office that has developed a romanticized notion of what teaching is or will be.  Because of this, I challenge pre-service teachers to wrestle with “why” they want to become a teacher.  Initial responses include simplistic answers such as “I love kids,” or I’ve “always wanted to teach.”  Yet, over time these responses mature.  The development process also affords growth in the depth of the answer. The candidates who earnestly wrestled with their chosen profession now find themselves with answers such as “to provide all children (no exceptions) with access to quality teaching, regardless of zip-code.  To model love and empathy; to be a voice for the voiceless, and to stand for justice, when no justice seems present.” 

These are the reasons new teachers are choosing to teach. These are the answers to “Why I do want to be a teacher.”  It’s important, then, that those of us established in this high calling, also help turn the tide and begin to promote the benefits, shorten the gap between idealism and realism, and use our voices to promote equity and access to all. 

I recently asked one of our graduates to reflect on the question: Why I want to be a teacher,” after nearly completing her first year of teaching, here is her response:

Each day I see students smiling and laughing together, helping each other learn a new concept, playing soccer together during lunch, or running to come tell me the latest thing they are SO proud of.  My students are why I am a teacher.  They inspire me everyday, constantly reminding me that there is more to school than the Pythagorean Theorem. I have learned so much from my kids this year. 

I want to be a teacher to help my students learn how to learn. Learn about life. Learn about themselves. Learn about math. Recently I asked my classes what they thought about learning. One student wrote, “School should be a place where we can be curious and happy.” I hope to make school that kind of place, where learning is desired rather than dreaded, curiosity is welcomed, and students feel comfortable thinking out of the box. 

Let us not give heed to the cynicism that so easily creeps into our profession; instead let’s harken back to a time when each of us answered our own why, and let’s join forces with new colleagues entering the profession to balance the realities of high stakes assessments with the goal of bending the arc of justice to a more rounded focus on the whole child.

Keith A Lambert, Ed.D.
Assistant Professor
Director of Student Teaching
Whitworth University

Monday, April 11, 2016

What Messages do Students Receive During a School Day?

I started this article with a plan, as I was asked to write about what it is like to be a kid for a day.  I was going to shadow a student and record the Growth and Fixed Mindset messages students give and receive during a typical day. I did do exactly what I wanted to do:  followed a student and recorded the interactions that could be considered either Growth or Fixed Mindset messages.  I found that it was not as simple as I thought.  A message like, “good job,” is considered a Fixed Mindset message, but what if it is followed up with, “But tell me why you think ‘successor’ means that.”  That simple little follow up statement changed a Fixed Mindset response, to a Growth Mindset response, and communicated to the student that the learning was more about the process than the result. 
What does this have to do with being a kid for a day?  I shadowed a student, trying to get a sense of the messages students heard throughout the day.  What are we, the teachers, communicating, as we offer feedback?  I tracked those messages. I listened, typed, and coded all day long.  At the end of seventh period, our last class of the day, I still was not sure what conclusions I could draw about the Fixed and Growth Mindset messages our students were hearing.  I was not really sure what I could take away from the day, as a student.

Then I had the opportunity to be a substitute principal at an elementary school for a week.  As a substitute principal, discipline is one major job I get to handle.  I actually love that part of the job.  I enjoy talking with kids, learning about them, and working with them to create plans so that whatever went wrong, and landed them some time in the hot seat, will not happen again; so they will know how to respond the next time.  It is amazing how a little listening and some sincere respect causes a child to open up and share more details than I really need to hear.  But it does.  And they do.
One child, a fifth grader, was sent to the office for having a meltdown after his paper airplane, during a science investigation, did not achieve the longest flight in the class.  He was just barely beat out by another student, and he had worked hard, for days, trying to design and fold the perfect paper airplane (That’s a Growth Mindset!).  There is nothing wrong with a little competition, and the teachers had certainly set up the competition in a fun and engaging way, that had focused on the process (design, precision, principles of physics), and culminated in a competition.  And man was this kid upset when he did not place!  He threw his paper airplane, as hard as he could, across the room.  So, to the office he went, to spend recess reflecting about the problems caused by his actions.

I sat down with the student, and we had a fantastic conversation about how frustrated this child felt.  He enjoyed the entire process of the paper airplane challenge, and he was confident about winning.  Unfortunately, he had recently learned something about his family that shook him. With all the turmoil at home, and he was struggling to leave it behind when he was at school… thus, overreacting to the loss of the competition.  After our talk, though, he was feeling better.  He had some ideas for continuing his exploration of paper airplanes at home, and he acknowledged that other students had also worked hard on the challenge.  His loss was not their fault.  He was ready to go back to class, apologize, and have a great day. 

Feeling like I’d had a principal win, I attended to some other substitute principal responsibilities.  Soon there was a call on the walkie talkie that a food fight had broken out in the cafeteria.  I rushed to the lunchroom, to find the same student, and several other boys, engaged in some popcorn launching and exploding milk carton fun.  The cafeteria monitors did not think it was quite as fun.  Since the boys had taken from their community, they had to give something back: washing tables and cleaning up the mess that had been left on the floor.  Though they were not happy about it, all the kids slipped on some gloves and in minutes, turned the room into a sparkling lunchtime paradise.  After the clean-up, the boy I had talked with earlier walked over to the trashcan to throw away his glove. Plop.  It landed in the compost instead.  Out of frustration, one of the lunch monitors shouted, “What are you doing!  What’s wrong with you!”  The boy first became defensive, then turned around, and burst into tears. He crumbled. 

I do believe our students respond to Growth Mindset messages- but those messages are part of a process, and cannot be tracked or assessed in just one day.  These messages must be internalized, and that takes time.  When everything is going wrong in the life of a child, they have no control.  What we say and how we respond to their needs communicates whether we value the process or the product.  Yelling at a child for making a mistake, does not teach the child how to fix the mistake.  It takes more effort on our part, but rather than assuming there is something wrong with children who do not act or respond how we expect them too, we have to continue to teach and communicate the process.  Give children a chance to fix mistakes, both in academics, and with behavior, and recognize the effort it took to make a change.  We may not be able to fix a Fixed system, but we can be cognizant of how we respond to children, and allow mistakes, while we encourage Growth over time. That is a Growth Mindset.

Kelli Dizmang
Title I Math Teacher and Administrative Intern
Jemtegaard Middle School
Washougal School District

Sunday, February 28, 2016

How Do We Create a Classroom Culture That Fosters a Growth Mindset?

Touted as a recipe for success in a number of arenas, including business, education and sports, a growth mindset, compels people to “believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.” This is in direct contrast to a fixed mindset, which leads people to “believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort” (Dweck, 2010).  

Recently I set off on a journey to learn more about growth mindset, hoping to provide richer learning experiences for my students, so I googled Dweck’s work, coming across what I shared above.  And though I eventually read on, this was as far as I had gotten before I made a discovery about the implications of this theory in education, a discovery that struck me straight on. I don’t think growth mindset will work in education. Truly. I don’t think it is just something teachers can pick off the shelf and decide to do, unless...unless, they first are willing to create a classroom culture that can breathe life into and sustain the growth-mindset approach. If they are not willing, not committed to doing this, then it is probably best left on the shelf, for it will not succeed. So how do we create a model that fosters a growth mindset among our students?  Let’s take a look at the current model first.

There’s a reason why so many of our students have a fixed mindset. We gave it to them. In many respects, as they crossed the threshold into education, we handed them a mindset that was then fed by the “learn-it-and-leave-it” approach to learning, which consequently resulted in their developing fixed beliefs about their abilities, stuck there from our passing judgement as we moved them through crazily crammed curricula. Year after year after year.  We teach. They learn. We test. They succeed.  They fail. They begin to believe what they can and can’t do. After all, we told them. And before long they have set ideas on their abilities. It is no wonder that by the time kids reach high school they are rigidly set in their perceptions. I am not good at math. I suck at writing. I hate science. In sum, they hate learning. We have to change that. Kids aren’t naturally predisposed to shun learning. They have learned it. But can we change that? I believe we can.

The New Model
To begin, we have to quit thinking of learning as a line.  We, instead, have to think of learning as a circle.  The old model suggests that we move kids along—ready or not.  In the old model, learning is predicated on success or failure, generally determined in a final test at the end of a unit of study, a final judgment before moving on to the next unit of study, a long linear approach that moves through content but never really allows kids to discover the effect that dedication and hard work can have not only on accomplishment but also perception. But what if we did it differently? What if instead of “learning it and leaving it,” we gave kids consistent chances to be dedicated and work hard to improve both their abilities and perceptions, continuously circling back to and around the key concepts and skills that we are focusing on?  If we did, then we’d need a new model. It might look something like this.
Poster created by Krissy Venosdale,

Steps to Creating a Classroom Culture That Fosters a Growth Mindset

1.    Slow down. Learning takes time.
2.    Focus.  Condense content into meaningful, manageable sets of focus standards. Give kids a smaller number of skills and concepts to really focus on and to really learn.
3.    Adopt a path-to-proficiency approach: practice, feedback, performance.  Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.  Really, this is the most important step.  This is the circle.  
4.    Implement and embrace an assessment-for-learning instead of an assessment-of-learning approach to evaluating student performance.  If we can get kids to believe that assessments are crucial measures, milestones for growth rather than ability alone, then we are moving in the right direction.
5.    Let go of the “one-and-done” approach to learning.  Let kids redo, re-submit, and retake everything.
7.    Provide independent learning opportunities. Consider project-based learning.
8.    Adopt and model your own genuine growth mindset.  You have to walk the walk, too. Engage in independent learning opportunities with your kids.  Be a learner.

Above are the steps that I am following as I make my own way. And now that I have taken those initial steps, I cannot imagine going back to my own fixed mindset about my ability to change students’ perceptions about their learning, about themselves.  I found freedom.  I found a growth mindset.  Let’s help students regain their own freedom.  Let’s help them find their own growth mindsets. In the end, it could be the most important thing we do for them. 

Monte Syrie teaches English at Cheney High School and education classes at Eastern Washington University. He is also the creator of the education blog ,<>.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

How can the use of inclusive language reduce bullying?

Words can be a bridge or a barrier to a student’s successful school experience. How teachers and administrators use words to describe the lived experience of their students, families, community members, and culture can invite a student into a dialogue, push them out, or ignore them entirely. Inclusive language is an invitation and is about more than just words – it is about respect, creating space for students to succeed, and recognizing the unique needs of each student. However, changing the way we communicate can be challenging - it requires thoughtfulness and intentionality. We probably don’t realize that many of the words, examples, and practices we use perpetuate bias, bigotry and, therefore, bullying. Communicating in an inclusive way requires patience of oneself and others and we must learn to think and speak differently by challenging our own norms of communicating and use of language. This advancement is essential if we aim to provide equity in teaching and learning.

© kmiragaya/123RF Stock Photo
The term “inclusive”, when used to modify “education”, addresses the need to provide instruction that is representative of all populations including, but not limited to, people of different races and ethnicities, cultural or religious values, genders, sexual orientations, disabilities, gender identities, or gender expressions. While people who identify with any one or more of these groups are protected by our state’s anti-discrimination laws, they are often underrepresented or invisible during instruction. Inclusive instruction ensures that each student has access to education that is equitable and representative. 

What does inclusive language look like?  It includes the use of the word “partner” rather than boyfriend or girlfriend; the phrase “he, she or they” rather than the use of one assumed gender pronoun; words like “if” rather than “when” in reference to marriage or having children; parent or caregiver instead of mother or father; examples of historical figures in social studies that represent diversity of gender, sexual orientation, religious values, disability, and gender. The use of inclusive language recognizes the wide range of expressions that are possible at different points in one’s life, helps challenge limiting and potentially harmful stereotypes, and encourages students to consider viewpoints and experiences beyond their own.  It expands rather than limits the possibilities for students and for education, and it suggests openness rather than restriction. There is no negative consequence to students when this shift in practice is made – only a benefit to more students.

All students deserve to learn about all subjects in settings that are safe and supportive. No one deserves to be bullied.  We know that LGBTQ students experience a highly disproportionate rate of bullying. In Washington, according to GLSEN’s 2013 National School Climate Survey, the vast majority of LGBT students regularly heard anti-LGBT remarks, and most had been victimized at school.  In these instances, inclusivity not only improves the learning experience, it decreases health disparities. The Human Rights Campaign, in a recent “call to action,” addresses the specific needs of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) youth related to sexual health education:
For LGBTQ youth to experience comparable health benefits to their non-LGBTQ peers, sex education programs must be LGBTQ-inclusive. Inclusive programs are those that help youth understand gender identity and sexual orientation with age-appropriate and medically accurate information; incorporate positive examples of LGBTQ individuals, romantic relationships and families; emphasize the need for protection during sex for people of all identities; and dispel common myths and stereotypes about behavior and identity.
How can the use of inclusive language reduce bullying?

·       Using inclusive language is a critical component of creating a safe and supportive school environment for all students and staff.  Building and classroom conversations about the importance of language should be regular and on-going, as a way to support staff and students in developing a new, common vocabulary and approach to communication.
·       Observing teachers, staff and students using inclusive language reinforces its importance and its impact.  It helps create expectations for student behavior and helps everyone in the school community develop competence as they try out new ways of communicating ideas and feelings.
·       Hearing inclusive language helps vulnerable students feel safe and respected.  In addition to seeing real-time application of the values expressed in most school policies and procedures, it lets students know it’s safe to report or intervene when abusive or harassing language is used.  Knowing that adults and peers care enough to change their language provides students with the confidence to challenge hurtful and harmful interactions.

It’s not enough to limit derogatory language, although that should be a goal in all schools.  If we truly want to reduce bullying and increase school safety and equity, we all must commit to examining and changing our own use of language and move toward including every student in a positive way.  We need to be willing to intervene when we hear hurtful language being used, but more importantly, to move toward communication that brings us together and helps each member of the school community feel recognized and valued for exactly who they are as individuals. This could make all the difference – to one or one thousand of your students.

Laurie Dils,
Program Supervisor for Sexual Health Education

Marissa Rathbone
Program Supervisor for Health and Physical Education

Thursday, November 19, 2015

How Do I Prepare Myself to Teach in an Inclusion Classroom?

Best practice would be the first thing that comes to mind, but what exactly does that entail?  As an educator, it is our job to teach students how to learn, even though we are labeled as math, reading, or science teachers.  If we as educators teach a child how to solve a system of equations, we say that we have had success, but if we can say that we taught that child how to be a lifelong learner that child will have success.  So is best practice different with inclusion?  The answer is no.  As an educator, it is my job to get to know my students and teach from where they are, which is exactly what a special education teacher does.  With general education students, I have to assess their starting point and attempt to get them to a higher academic level, with special education students the objective is the same.  There is a lot of research on differentiation and what it looks like in a typical classroom, so when the idea of inclusion came to our school all it did was stretch the level of academic levels in the class.

So back to the original prompt, how do I prepare myself to teach in an inclusion classroom?  The answer is that I use best practices for all of my students and differentiate my instruction according to where each student is academically.  There are many methods to assess where students are, but with special education students there is extra support.  The school psychologist provides a detailed profile on the student that helps to adjust my instruction accordingly.  By knowing the disability of my students I can repeat, tier material, adjust scales, and use any other type of written accommodation that fits the needs of the student.  Also, by knowing their academic levels I can search the current standards and see the progression of skills so that I can teach at their level.  There are language acquisition strategies that I use for all my students that are beneficial to all abilities.  These strategies are sometimes very hands on, but also very visual with cues that allow for students to encode the information.  There are many accommodations that are used for special education students such as extended time, being read to, shortened assignments, and other strategies to help them, but in reality they benefit all students.  The fact that these students have it written down somewhere tends to give them a bit more priority and rightfully so, but I hope that my instruction hits every student at their level.  

One of recent successes I’ve had with the inclusion model stemmed from using a strategy from G.L.A.D. (Guided Language Acquisition Design).  As a society one of the biggest fears is speaking in public; in classrooms the fear exponentially increases.  As educators, we rely on formative assessment to gauge our instruction and the learning of our students.  With numbered heads, students are randomly asked to participate, but they are prepared by their group members with a discussion before they are called on to respond.  One of my non special education students was called on and was struggling to use the right terminology.  After a few seconds of struggle, the student had the deer in headlights look. It was one of the special education students that not only assisted him, but helped to assess and correct his thinking.  The student used examples the group talked about and you could see that he was very confident in his assistance.  I feel that these little moments are worth the efforts of having inclusion in our classrooms.  

In conclusion, I feel that best practice will always be the way to go for mainstream and special education.  As we understand more about the mind and the human spirit, that practice will evolve for the better.  As educators we need the will and the skill to help all of our students, so our practice must evolve along with what research learns. Inclusion is much more than an opportunity for our special education students to learn academics; it is a way to get to know a complete world, so we must do our best to give them the best experience.  

Bulmaro Ruiz
6th Grade Math Teacher
Toppenish Middle School
Toppenish School District.

Carie Ruiz
6th Grade Reading Teacher
Toppenish Middle School
Toppenish School District.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Why is it Important to Teach Native History and Culture?

In May 2015, Washington Senator John McCoy (Tulalip) successfully sponsored a bill requiring that tribal history and culture be taught in Washington’s common schools. Washington Senate Bill 5433 was seen as a refinement of a 10-year-old Washington State House Bill (HB 1495) sponsored by then Representative McCoy encouraging such teaching. In support of HB 1495 and SB 5433, Washington State’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) has published curriculum developed in collaboration with Washington’s tribes—free and available at  This curriculum entitled, Since Time Immemorial is endorsed by all 29 federally recognized tribes in Washington and can be adapted to incorporate unique regional differences through collaboration between school districts and the local tribe(s). 

What might seem to some like a mere adjustment in social studies curriculum can also be framed—by Native peoples—as an important step in healing education systems after decades of tumultuous history. For generations the role of education systems in Washington State and beyond was to enforce federal policy calling for the eradication of Native languages and cultures and the assimilation of Native people into mainstream “American” ways of being. This forced assimilation caused incredible trauma for Native communities and their children forced to attend Indian boarding schools; for many, the trauma can still be felt in tribal families today.  Many contend that this trauma is a considerable factor in the ongoing struggle for Native students in today’s schools. This ongoing struggle is call to action for educators seeking success for all students. 

In a study from the early 1990s, the Indian Nations at Risk Task Force, (United States Department of Education, 1991) a committee assembled by the United States Secretary of Education to determine solutions to the ongoing struggle for American Indian students in meeting their fullest potential, culture is implicated in many important ways. Citing federal assimilationist policy from the 1880s, the task force highlighted the importance of strategically and intentionally incorporating traditional tribal cultures into schooling to both reverse the impact of such assimilation policies and strengthen tribal communities through student success in contemporary times. Task force members make the following suggestions:

·         Educators must incorporate culture and language into regular instruction.
·         The community must be highly participatory and collaborative in efforts toeducate children.
·         The pedagogy of the school must genuinely incorporate students’ backgroundsand experiences into the school program.

More recently, and locally, Washington State’s OSPI published Proposed Standards for Culturally-Responsive School (2000). This set of standards begins to become somewhat more specific about what educators will actually do in schools in which tribal culture is recognized and leveraged. OSPI’s Office of Native Education suggests the following standards: Educators who have been properly trained are responsive to and incorporate local Native ways of knowing, learning and teaching in their work. Educators who meet these standards:

1.    Use the local environment and community resources on a regular basis to link what they are teaching to the everyday lives of the students.
2.    Participate in community events and activities in an appropriate and supportive way.
3.    Work closely with parents to achieve a high level of complementary educational expectations between home and school.
4.    Recognize the full educational potential of each student and provide the challenges necessary for them to achieve that potential.
5.    Adapt instruction to the culturally contextual learning & cognitive styles, and needs of their American Indian students.

As school districts and teachers work to meet the requirements of SB 5433, suggested
standards, strategies, and solutions from the past several decades can be realized.  The use of Since Time Immemorial allows for authentic and accurate inclusion of Native history and culture in today’s classrooms. This inclusion is a major step in improving educational outcomes for Native students. Where once policies actively sought the elimination of Native history and culture, we can now create learning environments where rich stories can be told from the perspective of this land’s Indigenous people.  So, why is it important to teach Native history and culture?  We teach Native history and culture because now is the time to make schools places that truly serve all students in ways that help create healthy, knowledgeable members of society. Now is the time to take steps to right the wrongs of history in any way we can.  Using culturally based curriculum acknowledges history and allows students to achieve their potential as future tribal leaders; no longer are Native communities invisible or disregarded in the school system.

In today’s diverse classrooms, though, the answer to this critical question (Why is it important to teach Native history and culture?) is complex. The same classrooms serving our students of tribal descent serve students from many rich, diverse cultures. Why might the teaching of Native history and culture be important for all students?  Because Washington’s 29 federally recognized tribes are unique in our history and contemporary society, it is important that an accurate account is shared with our non-Native neighbors.  Since Time Immemorial offers history and culture free of common stereotypes (pilgrims and Indians, and other pre-1900 ideas of Native people from other regions, for example). Using curriculum written with local tribes allows for the development of cross-cultural relationships that are built upon a foundation of understanding of true tribal history and culture.  This foundation will lead to a more productive and just society.  


Proposed Standards for Culturally-Responsive Schools: Indian Education Plan for Washington State. (2000). Olympia: Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Since Time Immemorial.
United States. (1991). Indian nations at risk: An educational strategy for action : final report of the Indian Nations at Risk Task Force. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Dept. of Education.

Anthony B. Craig (Yakama), Ed.D.
Marysville School District
Director, Cultural Competency & School Support

Chelsea Craig (Tulalip)
Marysville School District
Teacher/Cultural Specialist

Chrissy Dulik-Dalos (Makah)
Marysville School District
Manager, Indian Education Department