The Navajo Utah Commission lists education among its top concerns in its annual letter to the governor and the Legislature.
Various San Juan School District schools are failing state learning standards at different points in time.
Whitehorse High School in Montezuma Creek, for one, is struggling to achieve "adequate yearly progress" (AYP) objectives and is in the third year of an improvement plan. Meanwhile, the federal No Child Left Behind Act allows some students to choose their preferred schools. San Juan High School in Blanding has become that choice, with approximately 10 students a year leaving Whitehorse.
Parents and leaders are alarmed that the NCLB Act is allowing abandonment of community investments in reservation schools by allowing easy transfer. On the reservation, good teachers are not finding the amenities (business and recreational outlets, churches and government services) found in non-Indian communities and are routinely leaving after short teaching stints. Students, the commission says, are the ultimate losers.
The Navajo Utah Commission recommends that:
The State Office of Education and the San Juan School District develop a teacher recruitment and retention plan with incentive bonus payments to keep quality teachers in remote and isolated communities.
The education office and district identify resources and services to assist low-performing schools over established timelines to meet state learning standards and, most important, provide quality education.
The education office develop a comprehensive Indian education policy, with proper consultation with tribal leadership and Indian educators.
The Utah Indian Education Office become more proactive and establish a greater presence in resolving educational issues with Utah tribal governments.
Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and the Legislature study the prospects of locating a state applied technology center on the Navajo reservation in southeastern Utah.