An investigation of the phenomenon of shortages of Indian teachers as described by tribal college leaders in teacher preparation

Cynthia Best O'Dell
Dept. of Educational Leadership, University of Montana
July, 2010


In Montana, less than 3% of K-12 teachers are American Indian (Montana Office of Public Instruction, 2009). The lack of Indian teachers, which was the problem identified for this dissertation, is of great concern to educational leaders. The shortage of Native American teachers can be correlated to problems in the education of K-12 students (Reyhner & Eder, 2004) as evident in the data on achievement gaps, dropout rates and participation in higher education. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to describe the experiences of tribal college leaders in preparing Indian pre-service teachers through the lens of the phenomenon of shortages of Indian teachers. It was hoped that such descriptions could inform educational leaders on possible, efficacious means to increasing the number of highly qualified Indian teachers in Montana. The themes that emerged within the research constructs that framed the study were:* The results of this study suggested that (a) there still exists a need among various educational entities to recognize the value of Indian teachers and to allocate financial support for this valued resource through teaching salaries, and various forms of postsecondary aid; (b) tribal colleges do not typically receive adequate funding or state support for their teacher education programs; (c) there is a perception that Indian teacher candidates are not always welcomed into schools for field work; (d) there is a need for leadership and data from multiple sources to support tribal colleges in preparing Indian teachers; and (e) tribal college teacher preparation programs often work with limited partnerships that are mainly based on convenience. Ongoing work to address Indian teacher shortages may keep the state's attention focused on its most serious educational need, improving the quality of American Indian education.

*Please refer to dissertation for table.