MURKOWSKI VISITS STUDENTS AT CHICKALOON TRIBAL SCHOOL
STRESSES THE NEED FOR FLEXIBILITY FOR ALASKA NATIVE IMMERSION PROGRAMS IN MEETING NCLB REQUIREMENTS
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski today visited with students at the Chickaloon Ya Ne Dah Ah School and Colony High School. This concludes a busy President's Day Recess schedule in which Murkowski has also taken the opportunity to visit with students and educators in Juneau, Hoonah and Kenai.
Ya Ne Dah Ah is a full-time primary school and day care facility operated by the Chickaloon Tribe where students learn Ahtna Athabascan history, language, music, and art. The students read to Murkowski in Athabascan and performed traditional Athabascan dances.
"I am always proud to see Alaskan educators combine Native language instruction with traditional curriculum," said Murkowski. "Language is central to all cultures. In districts around Alaska, students are learning in Inupiat and Yupik and Tlingit as part of communities' efforts to keep their language and culture alive."
The No Child Left Behind Act has had negative consequences for some Alaskan school districts' Native language immersion programs because students are tested in English. This has resulted in schools being labeled as "In Need of Improvement" even though the students are effectively learning to read, write and do math. While the Act allows states to test students in their own languages, creating valid tests in Yupik, Tlingit and Inupiat would be practically impossible. Murkowski has asked the U.S. Department of Education for flexibility that would allow schools' Adequate Yearly Progress calculations to be waived for the elementary grades so that these important language immersion programs can continue.
"The good news is that representatives of the U.S. Department of Education have told me that flexibility would be granted for specific communities in which Native languages and culture are predominant," said Murkowski. "I am working closely with the department, as well as districts like Lower Kuskokwim, to ensure that this gets taken care of this year. Alaska Native culture is more important than a federal law that was written to fit every state."