Web-Based Instructional Program Helps Advance American Indians in Arizona

Article excerpt

In Flagstaff, Ariz., many Navajo and Hopi residents from nearby reservations have struggled to preserve their cultural traditions while adapting to urban lifestyles. Once settled, many realize that economic success in the urban environment requires at least a high school diploma or GED, so they seek alternative educational programs for themselves and their families. Native Americans for Community Action (NACA), a health and human services agency in Flagstaff that serves primarily off-reservation American Indians, has gone well beyond traditional methods of learning by offering its clients self-paced instruction over the Internet. Each year, more than 5,000 individuals and their families receive NACA services, such as career counseling, substance abuse education and prevention for youth, substance abuse intervention and treatment for adults, as well as tobacco and diabetes education.

NACA also has an Adult Education Program that is funded primarily by the Arizona Department of Education (www.ade.state.az.us), which currently gives the nonprofit organization $65,000 in annual funding. The program's mission is to offer adult basic education and GED preparation to all adults in a culturally appropriate environment. Holly Franquet, NACA's adult education director, describes her program as open, friendly and extremely understaffed. Thus, she needed to find an instructional program that provided every learner with individual attention, as well as the ability to work from home, a school computer lab or a public library.

Core Academic Needs

Last year, the Arizona Department of Education evaluated Achievement Technologies Inc.'s SkillsTutor, a Web-based instructional program that suited a variety of students' core academic needs. Franquet participated in an evaluation trial period after learning that SkillsTutor was aligned to state and national tests, including the Test of Adult Basic Education (T.A.B.E.), which she uses to identify students' skill deficiencies in reading, writing and math. Following the trial, NACA decided to implement SkillsTutor into its program.

Franquet says: "People come into our program with all kinds of needs. Our students are high school dropouts of all ages who initially test at between the first- and 12th-grade level. Some are actually high school graduates who need remedial work in reading, writing and math. We spend a good amount of time helping adults who have fallen through the cracks. SkillsTutor is accessible over the Internet, so it works extremely well for young people and busy adults who don't have child care or transportation, or those who struggle with basic English and math concepts. …