Dr. Rosalie Grant has extensive experience researching and evaluating programs related to minority students, including Native students. Her many years’ experience of working at the interface of Native and Western worldviews, being involved in Native cross-cultural discussions and negotiations, together with her strong research and analysis skills, positioned her to lead WIDA’s research focus, American Indian education. This work is built on strong relationships with Native people and collaborating with them to the extent that WIDA’s expertise in academic language, assessment and learning is required.

In 2014, WIDA convened a meeting with representatives from state and local education agencies, American Indian communities, and researchers to explore opportunities for research that would support WIDA member states in better serving American Indian English learners. This meeting led to the formation of the American Indian English Learner Research Alliance which aims to initiate research to advance the linguistic, cultural, and academic proficiency of American Indian students. One of Rosalie’s key collaborators in carrying forward the Alliance’s work is Jacob Tsotigh (Legislator, Kiowa Tribe, Oklahoma).

Rosalie and her collaborators take a multifaceted approach as they work in complex, multilingual, multicultural and multinational contexts. To do this research the Alliance established four principles that underpin their research projects:

  1. Respecting Native cultures and languages
  2. Respecting sovereignty and self-determination of Tribal nations
  3. Fostering relationships with Tribal leaders and communities, such that American Indians are involved directly in leading, designing, conducting, and disseminating the research
  4. Responding to the needs expressed by American Indians and leading to actionable outcomes for students, tribes, parents, communities, teachers, other educators and policymakers.

Rosalie is also active with Merging Pathways: Cultural and Linguistic Considerations for American Indian Students in Schools, a project led by Dr. Cynthia Lundgren (WIDA) and informed by key collaborators Dr. Daisy Thompson and Phil Farson (Albuquerque Public Schools).  This project is conducted by Indian Education teachers in Albuquerque Public Schools, New Mexico, which serves 7,000 Native students with over 100 heritage language backgrounds. Their goal is to support the development of students’ academic English language literacy (reading and writing) in common academic genres (narrate, inform, argue, explain) using American Indian culture-based practices and materials. The project is critical for fostering students’ academic achievement, and for providing teachers with concrete tools with which to integrate students’ cultural and linguistic backgrounds into curricula and teaching practices.

In another project, Alaska Native educators in the Lower Kuskokwim School District, Central Alaska, are developing a PreK-6 test for their heritage language, Yugtun - the language of the Yup’ik people. Rosalie and WIDA colleagues are providing technical support to the District’s Expert Group of Yup’ik educators developing the test, and to Gayle Miller (Yup’ik Curriculum Design) to ensure the test is valid and reliable. The District’s previous Yugtun language test, a translation from an English test, vaguely exposed students to the purpose, meaning or structures of the Yugtun language or Yup’ik culture. A unique feature of the new Yugtun Proficiency Test is a sub-test, Yup’ik Cultural Language, which assesses students’ understanding of the Yup’ik worldview and Yup’ik non-verbal communications, both critical for surviving in remote areas of Alaska.

The aforementioned projects provide a foundation for WIDA researchers to support education providers wishing to investigate critical features of academic English language programs that support Native students’ heritage language development in multicultural, multilingual and multinational contexts.

American Indians are a complex and diverse population. WIDA uses the term American Indian inclusively, that is, to refer to American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian peoples.

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