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Navajo-Hopi Observer | Flagstaff, Arizona

home : latest news : regional August 25, 2016

11/5/2013 9:32:00 AM
Northern Arizona University receives $1 million grant to train Native American educators
Program hopes to add 25 Native American K-12 principals to
Navajo-Hopi Observer

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - A new $1 million grant will strengthen Northern Arizona University's (NAU) role as a leader in educating American Indian K-12 principals to work in American Indian schools across the nation.

The grant from the U.S. Department of Education supports a four-year project to increase the number of well-trained American Indian K-12 principals for schools serving Indian students, said Joseph Martin, principal investigator on the grant and an NAU professor.

The objective of the principal certificate program is to add 25 K-12 principals by 2017.

The program is open to qualifying American Indian teachers who have taught for at least three years under a standard teaching certificate and are affiliated with a K-12 grade school.

"The most important thing is that those teachers need to have a desire and a passion to want to become a principal," Martin said.

Through the program the teachers will have their college tuition and associated fees paid. Classes will be provided through NAU's online systems as a part-time program, with one class taken per semester for three and a half years, enabling participants to keep their jobs. Within six months of qualifying, participants will go to work in schools with large populations of American Indian students.

"There is a critical need for a preparation program that trains Indian principals to lead improved instruction and school change, not just manage budgets and buildings. Almost every study of Indian school improvement points to the need for strong academic and appropriately focused principal leadership," Martin said.

He added that about 70 percent of the administrators in regional reservation schools do not understand the cultural traditions of the local communities, do not speak the language or remain on the job for extended periods.

"[You may] have someone who doesn't understand, even though you may have a highly qualified person, but they may not understand what it takes to be a good, effective teacher or administrator in an Indian serving school," Martin said.

More than 40 percent of American Indian students fail to graduate from high school, Martin said, adding that the drop-out rate is high because there is a lack of well-prepared principals to address the most pressing needs for Indian student learning.

"There are no documented instances of high need schools being turned around without intervention by a strong-minded leader. Many other factors may play a role in such turnarounds, but leadership is key," Martin said. "If you have an Indian person who has that passion and who understands how best to teach Indian kids, that is what we are looking for."

NAU received another similar grant in 1998. Martin said these grants are competitive. That means the university has to lay out their goals and how they will achieve them and the funder in Washington D.C. has to believe that Martin and NAU will be able meet those goals.

Martin, who also serves as Special Adviser to the President of NAU, is seeking participation from Indian teachers from all areas of Indian country for this principal certificate program.

More information from interested candidates about admission requirements and eligibility in the grant supported program is available by contacting Dr. Martin at (928) 523-5933 or by email at

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