Indigenous Students, Families and Educators Negotiating School Choice and Educational Opportunity: A Critical Ethnographic Case Study of Enduring Struggle and Educational Survivance in a Southwest Charter School
KeywordsAnthropology of education
Culturally Responsive Schooling
Language, Reading & Culture
American Indian Education
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis critical ethnography focuses on the practice of an Indigenous-serving charter school in Arizona and how it created space to practice culturally responsive schooling for Indigenous youth in an era of school accountability and standardizing educational reforms. Urban Native Middle School (pseudonym) opened for four years before being closed under tremendous state pressure from high-stakes testing accountability measurements. This study uses data spanning two periods of data collection: archived data collected at the time of the school's operation, and follow-up data tracking educators', parents' and students' experiences after the school's closure. Careful examination of student, educator, and parent narratives about the school during its years in operation illuminate how adults and youth co-authored a unique reterritorializing both/and discourse, building a school community of practice around connections to mainstream standardized knowledge and local Indigenous knowledges. The transformational potential of the schools both/and approach offered students access to strength-based both/and identities. The second phase of the study, which followed educators', parents', and students' into new school environments, illuminates practices of educational negotiation on the part of participants within geographies of limited educational opportunity for Native youth, both urban and rural. With four years of data collection, this study expands understanding of how Indigenous families choose among available educational environments in landscapes of limited school options and policy labels which fail to address the on-the-ground realities of schooling in Indigenous communities. For the Indigenous educators and families in this study, navigating school choice in an era of high-stakes testing reflects an enduring struggle of American Indian education with educational policy. This study's findings suggest that the transformative potential of both/and schooling has positive and wide reaching implications on the school experience of Native youth, and further illuminates the persevering practices of Indigenous educational survivance in seeking access to more equitable, culturally sustaining educational experiences. With implications for practice and policy, this anthropologic case study of an Indigenous-serving charter school considers the powerful impacts of human relationships on student learning and critiques the injustice perpetuated by snapshot accountability measurements which deny students' spaces for cultivating bridges to access imagined futures.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Language, Reading & Culture