Navajo language assessment testing to occur in elementary schools

Members of the Navajo Language Assessment Committee: Back row (L to R): Edmund Lano, Herbert Frazier, Nancy Benally, Carol Yazzie, Janice Montoya, Lena Benally-Smith and Roselyn Sandoval; Center row: Carmen Moffett, Sandra Freeland, Teresa Howard, Patrick Werito, Marilyn Deal, Carmen Clark and Rhonda Barbone; Front row: Delores Noble, Catherine Begay, Louise Benally, Arlene Loretto, Marie Tapaha, Bernice Casaus and Arlene Romero (Courtesy photo).

Members of the Navajo Language Assessment Committee: Back row (L to R): Edmund Lano, Herbert Frazier, Nancy Benally, Carol Yazzie, Janice Montoya, Lena Benally-Smith and Roselyn Sandoval; Center row: Carmen Moffett, Sandra Freeland, Teresa Howard, Patrick Werito, Marilyn Deal, Carmen Clark and Rhonda Barbone; Front row: Delores Noble, Catherine Begay, Louise Benally, Arlene Loretto, Marie Tapaha, Bernice Casaus and Arlene Romero (Courtesy photo).

SANTA FE, N.M. - The New Mexico Public Education Department (NMPED) Indian Education Division and the Navajo Nation's Office of Dine Culture, Language, and Community Services (ODCLCS) are collaborating with seven public school districts in New Mexico to pilot a recently developed Navajo Language Assessment to determine mastery levels of Navajo language.

Seven New Mexico public schools were selected to pilot the assessment to evaluate its effectiveness and reliability. The pilot test sites are: Lowell Elementary and La Mesa (Albuquerque Public Schools), Central Elementary (Bloomfield Schools), Milan Elementary (Grants Cibola Schools), Kirtland Elementary (Central Consolidated Schools), Bluff View Elementary (Farmington Schools) and Navajo Elementary (Gallup McKinley County Schools).

The ODCLCS received an appropriation from the NMPED Indian Education Division to pilot test the Navajo language assessment, which was developed by Navajo language teachers from New Mexico, Arizona and Utah schools. The next step of the process is to field test the assessment at schools with Navajo language classes as part to the school's bilingual program.

"I strongly support this Memorandum of Understanding with the Navajo Nation Division of Diné Education and New Mexico Public Education Department," stated Secretary of Education Veronica C. García. "The findings of this assessment will help educators prepare appropriate programs for our Navajo children."

"Presently there are no assessments on the Navajo Nation to measure language capabilities of Navajo students," said Delores J. Noble, senior education specialist from the ODCLCS. "As a result, the Navajo Nation was determined to bring Navajo language teachers [together] to compose a common oral language assessment."

Training for Navajo language teachers to implement the language assessment will be planned after the oral Navajo language assessment has been approved by the Navajo Nation Council Education Committee and the Navajo Nation Board of Education. Members of the language assessment will lead training for Navajo language teachers in speaking, teaching and assessing one of the most complex languages to learn. The goal is to have an approved assessment that will be utilized by public schools systematically and begin the process of collecting data on Navajo language proficiency among Navajo students.

At the last meeting held in January, Navajo Language teachers from Bloomfield Schools reported that 29 third graders from Central Elementary were tested for the pilot study. Central Consolidated Schools reported that 16 third graders were tested at Kirtland Elementary School. Navajo language teachers at Navajo Elementary reported that 25 third graders were tested and Marie Tapaha from Mt. Taylor Elementary (Grants Cibola County Schools) reported testing third graders.

Farmington and APS are still in the process of testing their students.

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