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Navajo Nation Gains Access to Student Data

The Navajo Nation now has the authority to access the assessment data of Navajo students throughout Utah.  Navajo representatives joined state education officials this morning to sign a memorandum of understanding that will help the two entities cooperate in sharing the data. 

For years federal privacy laws barred Navajo Nation education officials from accessing student-specific achievement data because it wasn’t considered a state agency. But recent changes to the law have made tribal education agencies eligible.  

State Board of Education Chair Deborah Roberts says it’s imperative to understand how students are doing in order to make changes and improve student outcomes.

“For the Navajo Nation with their unique understanding of those children to be able to look at that data and really understand what reading level they’re at, what math level they’re at, how they’re doing in science gives them the information they need to be able to make some analysis and understand the needs of those students," Roberts says.

Kalvin White is Program Manager for the Office Diné Science, Math and Technology. He says the whole education system in the U.S. is based on a linear model, where knowledge is expected to escalate with grade level.

But White says, from the Navajo perspective that’s only one approach to gaging achievement.

“There is a holistic model of how much family, how much environment, how much school, how much mental health, how much cultural identity influence achievement too," White says. "In order to look at those factors, you’ve got to have data.”

White calls the signing of the agreement a historic event.  

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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