Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Washington State Tribal Education Summit
March 27, 2003
Thank you, Joe. Good morning everyone.
It’s great to be here.
I commend the tribal leadership of our state for coming together at this summit to address the critical issue of tribal education.
I thank each of you for your key roles in leading this important effort.
And I thank everyone here for coming—not just to listen, but to work!
This is a very focused summit, and I understand that your efforts will yield a plan we can say has already been implemented by the time of our next Centennial Accord meeting later this year.
There are two key shared values reflected in this gathering.
One is that education is vitally important, and the other is that diversity is our greatest strength.
I believe that these two values should inform everything we do for our state, for our kids, and for the future.
Education remains my top priority.
My daughter Emily started Kindergarten this year.
Her first day at school back in September was a very big day in the Locke household.
Mom and Dad were a lot more nervous about it than Emily.
Talking to my daughter about how things are going in school each day adds one more very valuable perspective to my thinking about how to make sure our state gives kids—all kids—the best education possible.
We have steadily progressed in our education reform efforts.
We are committed to building a world-class education system.
That is the key to a vital economy and a prosperous future for our children.
We must continue to invest in the future—in their future.
But we still have far to go.
While overall WASL scores are on the rise, there’s a widening disparity between Native Americans and other minorities, and white students.
This growing achievement gap is unacceptable.
A good education is a universal right.
It must never depend on circumstances of social or economic standing.
But the achievement gap tells us that this universal right is not a universal reality.
Looking at the WASL scores tells the story.
The good news is that American Indian students are making the same or greater incremental progress in the scores compared to the overall state averages.
But the disparity between Indian students and white students is alarming.
Indian 4th graders scored 20% lower than white students in reading, math and writing.
Native American 7th graders scored 23% lower in reading, 20% lower in math, and 22% lower in writing.
Tenth-graders scored 20% lower in reading, 20% lower in math, and 23% lower in writing.
This same disturbing trend is evident in completion rates.
While the average overall high school completion rate in our state is about 80%, the average for Native American students is under 68%.
And the dropout rate for Indian students is twice as high as the overall state average.
All this is unacceptable, and this is what brings us here today.
We’re here to consider how we can close this gap.
We must figure out how to give our Native American kids the same opportunities as everyone else.
We must honor those two values we hold so important—education and diversity.
One important way we will bridge the gap is to rely on vital partnerships between the tribes, communities, and schools.
We are all interested in the same thing—making sure our kids get the best education possible.
Working in partnership gives us the best opportunity to achieve this result between governments at all levels and between the public and private sector.
This isn’t just a theory.
We’ve already seen some very effective partnerships when it comes to Indian education.
The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe is a sterling example.
Seven years ago, racist incidents at Port Angeles High School brought the issue of Native American education there to a crisis point.
The Tribe could have lashed back.
Or just given up.
But instead, the Tribe did something positive.
They reached out in the spirit of understanding and cooperation.
They held potlatches to build bridges and share their living culture.
A partnership for better education was born.
The now yearly Potlatch honors teachers, principals, aids and volunteers.
It brings people together, and bringing people together brings improvements to the schools.
Native American language classes have been introduced.
The Tribe has hired “interventionists” for students considered “at-risk.”
The partnership between the tribal community and the school district is leading to specific improvements that will help Native American students.
This year’s Potlatch was last week. The Tribe presented a basket to the principal of Dry Creek Elementary School.
In the basket were books translated into the Klallam language by high school students.
The non-Indian principal thanked everyone—in the Klallam language.
That exchange says it all—partnerships work.
The Tulalip Tribes have had similar success in partnering with schools.
The Tribes invested money in a first-class computer center for the schools.
Now, students at the new center have developed animated programs using their native language.
The educational experience is being enriched for Indian students—indeed, for all students.
I encourage all of the Tribes to explore similar partnerships with school districts and educators.
We owe Native American students the opportunities that such partnerships bring.
While we’re on the subject of partnerships, let’s not forget parents.
Every parent in our state is a partner in education.
Our children need involved, engaged, well-informed parents to encourage, teach, and, if necessary, advocate on their behalf.
That’s our job as parents.
We need to focus on greater parental involvement – education begins at birth and requires parental involvement and monitoring of homework.
Another area that offers great potential in bridging the achievement gap for Indian students is technology.
Our kids are growing up in the age of the Internet.
Resources that my generation would never have dreamed about are at their fingertips.
But only as long as we give them the tools they need to tap into this wonderland of knowledge.
All children will need this access to knowledge.
They will need it to compete and succeed in the high-tech 21st century global economy.
We need to increase access to educational opportunities through technology.
The Tulalip partnership is one such example of better education through technology.
I am proud to announce that the Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development has provided the first $50,000 grant for the successful launching of the Tribal Technologies program.
This is another unique partnership between the Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs, the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians and the foundation community.
The purpose of the program is to help Washington state tribes gain access to technology resources.
This year, the Tribal Technologies program will:
·Complete technology assessments and funding plans for the Tribes
·Establish a help-line service to address technology questions
·Develop a Web-based link to provide ready access to the latest technology information
·Join with other sponsors to sponsor the 2nd Annual Tribal Technologies Visioning Conference
That conference, by the way, will be right here at the Quinault Beach Resort in May.
And just last week we announced the Washington Digital Learning Commons.
The Commons is an Internet-based educational center accessible from schools, homes and libraries throughout the state.
·High quality materials with active links to a broad range of educational and cultural organizations such as science centers, museums and archives; many institutions that charge an access fee to view or use their materials will be free of charge via the Commons.
·Learning tools—software and support to help students, teachers and parents incorporate computer-based resources into teaching and learning.
Students will be able to create personalized portfolios to preserve and present their work; and
·Online classes: Media-rich, interactive and engaging courses, rigorously reviewed, aligned with our state’s essential learning requirements and approved for credit.
The Digital Learning Commons reflects our commitment to a simple proposition: equality in opportunity.
We want every student in our state to have access to great resources, great courses, and great teachers in every subject they wish to pursue.
Every student—regardless of location, size of school, number of teachers, regardless of background, regardless of district resources.
I believe that the Digital Learning Commons will help close the achievement gap for Native American students and others.
One final area I would like to mention where the potential for progress is great lies in working to make schools more culturally responsive.
As you know, one of the causes of high dropout rates among Native American students is a sense that they are not accepted or, worse, feel discriminated against.
This is why some refer to Indian dropout rates as “push-out” rates.
Native American cultural programs have the power to help keep Indian students in school—and they promote diversity.
We’ve seen some good examples in the past year:
The Northwest Native Reading Curriculum developed by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction;
Passage of the First Peoples Language Bill;
And native language instructor certification.
We must repeat these successes.
One of the lessons of the successful Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe partnership is that embracing diversity enriches our schools and communities.
Helping schools to be more culturally responsive to Native American students is another area where good partnerships between the Tribes and school districts can make a difference.
I will continue to do all that I can at the state level to encourage and foster these partnerships for progress.
And I will continue to do all that I can to close the achievement gap in our education system.
I hope that some day the term “achievement gap” will have no meaning in our state.
Let’s retire it from our vernacular—permanently.
Only by working together will we give all of the children in our state the education they deserve.