Indigenous-Language Immersion and Native American Student Achievement
What can a study of Indigenous-language immersion (ILI) teach us to improve education practice and outcomes for Native American learners? This four-year, mixed-method, multisite study will investigate ILI, a promising instructional innovation with over three decades of implementation history for which a systematic national database is lacking. The study’s rationale stems from rapid changes in Native American students’ sociolinguistic environments—in particular, Indigenous-language loss among younger generations—coupled with enduring achievement disparities for Native students as a group. In response, many Native communities have turned to ILI schooling, an approach in which all or most academic content is engaged through the Indigenous language, and in which culture-based instruction plays a prominent role. The study includes:
Each ILI/non-ILI pair will provide estimates of the effects of immersion on OTL and outcomes of interest. Our goal is to illuminate how, when, for whom, and why ILI may be beneficial. In answering these questions, the study will significantly advance our understanding of the factors that contribute to improved quality of education practice for diverse underserved Native American students. On a larger scale, the study offers a rich opportunity to better understand program variation and its education effects. Equally important, the study will support Native communities in strengthening their language education efforts, and will help us imagine how educators, community members, and policymakers can collaboratively capitalize on linguistic and cultural diversity to enhance education for all learners.