Against All Odds: Reversing Low Achievement of One School's Native American Students

This article is about Lapwai Elementary School, located on the Nez Perce Reservation in northern Idaho, which serves a K–6 population of 302 students, 84 percent of whom are Native American, and its success in raising student achievement. The article discusses the steps and initiatives that teachers and administrators took to improve the school and to address the students’ achievement. The steps and initiatives include aligning the school’s curriculum to state standards and assessments; providing time for common planning and professional development; implementing effective reading and mathematics programs and interventions; initiating full-day kindergarten; reducing class size; extending afterschool tutoring; and increasing daily instructional time in reading and mathematics for all students.

Content Comments 

The purpose of this article is defined upfront in general terms, and then effectively met. The primary goal is to describe eight components of school, instructional, and community improvement undertaken by Lapwai Elementary School (northern Idaho) in order to substantially improve the academic performance of its mostly American Indian (AI) students. Many of the components, as described in the article’s summary, are common to other school improvement strategies. A substantial degree of success appears to be related to the continued focus on student achievement by and the lengthy tenure of the school superintendent. The gains in student achievement reported in this 2005 article appear to be reasonably sustained based on more recent test scores. However, Lapwai Elementary continues to lag behind a substantial number of schools with large percentages of white students. The strong communications quality and potential utility to other schools make this a worthwhile article. A possible positive impact on student learning in other schools is feasible based on the content and information provided.