Education summit wants to get more Native American culture into classrooms

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BISMARCK, N.D. - North Dakota teachers wrapped up the 5th annual Indian Education Summit Friday. The summit looks at ways to improve education for Native American students.

Native American students have a high school graduation rate around 65-percent, about 10-percent lower than the national average. That's why educators say this summit is so important.

Adding more Native American culture to the classroom is how education leaders aim to improve the graduation rates and test scores.

"Every child should be able to come to school and be able to see themselves in their day at school at some point,” said Sharla Steever, Technology and Innovation in Education.

Technology and Innovation in Education, a South Dakota based company, created seven essential understandings of tribal culture, responsibilities and identity in 2015. Now they're rolling out in schools.

"It's not a separate class, it's not like we now have essential understanding time, it's that it should be integrated into their day,” said Steever.

Bismarck Public Schools hired Travis Albers as a cultural responsive coordinator. His job is to engage with kids all over the district and teach them about Native culture.

"When you win the hearts and minds of teachers and communities by showing them the benefit of approaching it this way, then it's a long term change,” said Scott Simpson, Technology and Innovation in Education.

Scott Davis, the ND Indian Affairs Commission director, says he's a strong supporter of programs like this, but funding will always be the issue.

"Session is coming up in January, policy, budgets. These are going to be things that are big talks,” said Davis.

Davis, the son of a career educator, says he will press for funding. Chadwick Kramer, the grant coordinator responsible for getting Albers into Bismarck Schools, says he wants to get more coordinators into BPS.