Published September 13, 2016
WINDOW ROCK — Programs within the Department of Diné Education are about performance and assessment. The Department of Diné Education knows and understands that education is about performance. On a periodic basis throughout the year, DODE holds trainings for teachers, school board members, and school administrators to improve performance in teaching and school operations. Teachers must be highly qualified.
Such is an example, on August 30, when the Office of Standards, Curriculum and Assessment Development (OSCAD) of the Department of Diné Education completed a training on Oral Diné Language Assessment (ODLA). The training is about preserving the Navajo language. From throughout the Navajo Nation, teachers and school administrators, who will assist with administering the ODLA, came together to attend the training. Over 70 participants attended the training that was held at the Gallup McKinley Council School Administration Building, Gallup, New Mexico.
Peter Thomas, who attended the training, is the program director of Navajo Language and Culture at the Shonto Preparatory School (SPS) said that Children in grades K-2 at Shonto Preparatory School do not know the Navajo language and only speak English. “In middle school, 20% of the student know Navajo,” said Peter while talking about SPS. “In High School, there is a turn around. They are starting to speak Navajo. About 35 percent of the students speak Navajo.” Peter explains that he grew up speaking Navajo, and he said, “English is a second language to me”. When he was young, Peter went to school at the Rock Point Boarding School where he was told not speak Navajo.
After completing the ODLA training, teachers become eligible testers or qualified trainers when completing the following requirement: Participate in two consecutive years of ODLA trainings and administer two ODLA with an OSCAD Education Specialist. Once a teacher is ODLA certified, the certification is valid for four years. Approximately 37 slide presentations were included in the training. Mr. Dmitriy Neezzhoni, Senior Education Specialist, presented information on the Navajo Sovereignty in Education Act of 2005. Senior Education Specialist, Ms. Afton Sells’ presentation covered scoring instruction. The presentation presented by Maggie Benally, Senior Education Specialist, was on tally scores.
Prior to the noon break, Reuben McCabe presented information on Navajo expression skills. The audience participated by reading the Navajo language presented on the slides. After each presentation, OSCAD staff had equal opportunity to response to questions raised by the audience.
According to the presentation, ODLA pre-assessment and annual assessment are administered to all students in grades K, 4th, 8th, 9th and 12th attending Grant & Contract schools, including public schools that have a memorandum of agreement with the Navajo Nation.
According to the information distributed at the training, Schools administer fall pre-tests in August or September and administer spring post-test in April of each school year. Schools are responsible for administering ODLA tests. After administering the assessments, schools submit score sheets to the Department of Diné Education.
“In the old days, we used to speak Navajo at home,” said Thomas. “Today children are speaking English at home. English only. Even parents and grandparents are speaking English at home.” He added, “The school is trying to preserve the Navajo language. I don’t think schools will succeed in preserving the Navajo language. The parents must understand first the Navajo language in order to preserve the Navajo language.”
Thomas was very interested about the preservation of the Navajo language. “When we teach English to children, they speak English at home and their parents and grandparents speak English at home,” said Thomas. “But, at home there is no one speaking in the Navajo that is why children are not speaking Navajo. Parents and grandparents must change it by speaking the Navajo language at home.”
The training was a success and all participants received certifications for completing the required training.