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The Indian Child Goes To School



Early in 1950 an agreement was entered into between the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the University of Kansas whereby the University would render technical and consultant services to the Education Branch of the Bureau in the field of educational research. Pursuant to this agreement, in a series of three conferences held in late 1950 and the first half of 1951, the purposes of the present study were defined and the procedures to be followed were outlined. The first meeting was held at Haskell Institute in Lawrence, Kansas, on December 13 and 14, 1950. Representing the Bureau of Indian Affairs were: Dr. Willard W. Beatty, then Chief of the Education Branch of the Bureau; Dr. George A. Dale, Mr. Earl C. Intolubbe, and Mr. L. Madison Coombs, Education Specialists in the Education Branch; and Dr. Solon G. Ayers and Mr. W. Keith Kelley, Superintendent and Principal, respectively, of Haskell Institute. Representing the University of Kansas were: Dr. Kenneth E. Anderson, Dr. E. Gordon Collister, and Mr. Carl E. Ladd who had been designated by the University as consultants to the program.

On April 27, 1951, Dr. Beatty, Mr. Coombs, Dr. Ayers, and Mr. Kelley again met with the consultants from the University of Kansas at Haskell Institute.

On June 15, 1951, Dr. Anderson, Dr. Collister, and Mr. Ladd went to Intermountain School at Brigham City, Utah, for a final conference with Dr. Beatty and administrative and supervisory personnel of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, including the Area Directors of Schools or their representatives.


During the course of these conferences it became clear that the testing program should take two directions in order to serve best the needs of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. These were for prediction and the measuring of achievement.

Predictive Testing

A battery, testing academic aptitude, was needed to help predict the probable success, or lack of it, of high school graduates who wished to continue their education at the post-high school level. The planning and implementation of this phase of the program is described in detail in Chapter VIII.

Achievement Testing

The main purposes to be served by an achievement testing program were twofold.

Administrative Use. The continuing evaluation of the status of educational achievement of children in a school system was recognized to be not only sound but indispensable school practice. In no other way could a satisfactory evaluation be made of progress toward the objectives of the schools. On the basis of objective findings, such things as curriculum planning, teaching procedures, and the use of instructional materials could be shaped accordingly.

Furthermore, since schools of three different administrative types, Federal, public, and mission, were engaged in the education of Indian children, often in the same general localities, it would be helpful to be able to make comparisons of the general level of achievement of pupils in the different types of schools. This was particularly true since the responsibility for the education of Indian children was being transferred from Federal to public schools in many communities by contract agreement. In the absence of objective data, comparisons of the three types of schools were too frequently based on mere speculation or assumption of fact.

It was recognized that, along with measurement of pupil achievement, it would be necessary to examine those cultural background factors which were believed to influence school achievement.

School Uses. One of the shortcomings of earlier, achievement testing programs had been that they were aimed exclusively at satisfying the administrative needs mentioned above. As a consequence, local school personnel, particularly classroom teachers, and public and mission school people generally, saw little relationship between the programs and what they were trying to do in the course of their daily work. It was determined that test results should be made functional at the classroom level and that achievement testing should become an integrated part of the entire instructional program.

1. Pupil Guidance. Test results, then, would be made to serve in the educational guidance of individual pupils, not only by determining his status at a given time, but also by charting his growth and development over a span of time. It would also be possible to detect his areas of greatest strength and weakness and to plan help for him accordingly. What could be done for individuals in this regard could also be done for groups.

2. Improvement of Instruction. At the same time, the test results would place in the hands of the teacher a means of evaluating the effectiveness of her instruction and of ascertaining the needs of her pupils. Emphasis was placed upon the teacher's use of this tool rather than upon its use by someone in a supervisory capacity, unjustifiably, as a teacher-rating technique.


Out of the Haskell and Intermountain conferences, mentioned earlier, grew certain decisions affecting procedure.

Decision to Test the Basic Skills

It was decided to limit the achievement testing to the basic skills; namely, reading, arithmetic, language usage, and spelling. There were several reasons for this decision. First, it was felt that the objectives of the several types of schools participating were much more uniform with respect to the basic skills than would be true if the “content” subjects were included. All schools, regardless of type, strive to make their pupils literate. Second, the basic skills are fundamental. They are tools that are used in most other learnings. Third, in view of the large number of pupils to be included in the program, it would be necessary to select a standardized test which was adapted for machine scoring, since hand scoring would be too burdensome and time consuming. Tests in special fields, such as home economics, health and safety, and use of resources, prepared in earlier years by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, were not set up for machine scoring.

Decision to Test Grades Four Through Twelve

If test results were to provide a means of charting pupil growth, it was felt that all grades, starting at four and continuing through twelve, should be tested. No testing would be done below grade four. There were two compelling reasons for this latter decision. First, no satisfactory achievement test was found which could be machine scored at the primary level. Second, grave doubts were entertained as to the validity or reliability of standardized test results obtained from such young children.

Decision to Introduce the Program in One or Two Areas Each Year Over a Period of Several Years

No research study can be better than the validity and the reliability of its basic data. For this reason it was decided to develop the program very carefully by introducing it in only one or two areas each year over a period of several years. It was felt necessary to orientate carefully a large number of persons in all types of schools—not only in the proper administration of the tests, but particularly in the effective use of test results.

Decision to Use the California Achievement Test

The California Achievement Test was chosen for use for the following reasons: first, it was available in a machine scoring edition; second, it had already found wide favor among the schools of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and was widely used in local programs; and third, its content seemed to be as valid for Indian children as that of any other test available.

Decision to Test in the Fall of the Year

The decision to test in the fall of the year rested mainly on the advantage the teacher would have in using test scores during the same school year in which they were obtained for the guidance of her pupils and for the improvement of her teaching.

Decision to Start With the Albuquerque and Phoenix Areas

The Albuquerque and Phoenix Areas were selected for the first year's program in 1951 mainly because the Directors of Schools for those areas were present at the Intermountain conference and expressed a willingness to take the lead in developing the program. Both Mr. Vernon L. Beggs of Albuquerque and the late Mr. George C. Wells of Phoenix were experienced in the measurement field. The Albuquerque and Phoenix Areas were adjacent to each other, which would facilitate administration of the program. In addition, the two areas bore certain cultural similarities to each other.

A General Formula for the Inclusion of Public and Mission Schools

It was agreed that the following conditions should be met in selecting public and mission schools for participation: first, they should be rural, not urban, schools. That is to say, no school operating in a community of more than 2,500 population should be included; second, they should operate in the same general locality as an Indian Bureau school or schools; third, public schools participating should have in their enrollment a considerable proportion of Indian pupils; fourth, the combined number of public and mission school pupils included in a given area should be approximately the same as the number of pupils, in the Federal schools; fifth, the administrators and teachers of cooperating public and mission schools should feel a real desire to participate and see value in the program for their own purposes. Obviously, it would not be feasible to include in the program all public schools that enrolled Indian pupils. It was agreed that in every school participating, all pupils would be tested regardless of race.

Specific Planning

Working within the framework of the criteria listed in the preceding paragraph, Area Office personnel in the Albuquerque and Phoenix Areas contacted public and mission schools in July of 1951 and late that month sent to the Evaluation Office at Haskell Institute a list of the schools that would participate, and an estimate of the number of pupils who would be tested at each grade level. The response by the public and mission schools was gratifying and beyond expectation, particularly in the Albuquerque Area.

On September 14 a training session was held at Albuquerque, New Mexico. In attendance were Federal, public, and mission school personnel from both the Albuquerque and Phoenix Areas, representing nearly every school that would participate, as well as the two Area Offices involved. The consultants from the University of Kansas and the representative from the Evaluation Office at Haskell Institute were also present. In addition, representatives of the Arizona State Department of Education attended.

The purposes of the program, described earlier, were discussed thoroughly by the group. Attention was then given to methods of standardizing the testing procedure so that it might be uniform in all schools and the test results be made as dependable as possible.

It was agreed that the tests would be given by teams of trained test administrators; that is, persons experienced in testing and who had familiarized themselves completely with the test to be used, the directions provided, and the uniform procedures agreed upon at the meeting. Wherever feasible the teams would be composed of representatives of at least two of the three types of schools involved. Responsibility for the actual selection and training of the testing teams was placed in the hands of the Director of Schools of each of the areas.

Other matters which were pursued were: the filling out of the information sheet that was designed to elicit background data about the pupil; the use of the sample question sheet; and the mechanics of shipping testing supplies from the Evaluation Office to the field, and returning completed answer sheets and background sheets to the University of Kansas.


Immediately after the Albuquerque conference, a general manual of instructions was composed and mimeographed by the Evaluation Office. This and all other testing supplies were then shipped to the field. (The general manual of instructions, and the background information sheet, previously alluded to, are shown in Appendix A).

The tests were administered by the testing teams in October and early November of 1951. There was ample evidence that, with few exceptions, the tests were well administered and that confidence could be placed in the methods used.

Completed answer sheets and background information sheets were returned to the Guidance Bureau of the University of Kansas as soon as they were completed for any one grade in any one school. They were then machine-scored by the Guidance Bureau. As soon as scoring was completed for a group, the scores were recorded on roster sheets provided for the purpose. Group means and grade equivalent scores were computed by the Evaluation Office and likewise recorded on the roster sheet. The results were then mailed back to the field with copies going to the Area Director of Schools, the Reservation Principal, and the School Principal.

As soon as the scoring for an area was completed, separate norms, based on the test scores for that area, were computed and student profile sheets and acetate grade norm overlays were constructed.

Follow-up meetings were held in Albuquerque on February 28, 1952, and at Phoenix on March 1, 1952, for the purpose of familiarizing Federal, public, and mission school representatives with these devices and their most effective use. In addition, meetings were held on most of the reservations for the instruction of classroom teachers.

The use of the interpretive devices and techniques referred to above is the subject of Chapter VII of this report.

When the data became available, both test scores and background information were punched on IBM cards for analysis.

A similar pattern of preparation and follow-up was followed in each of the other four areas that participated in the program, i.e., the Aberdeen Area in 1952, the Billings Area in 1953, and the Anadarko and Muskogee Areas in 1954.

The Aberdeen Area

As early as September of 1951, Mr. Leslie M. Keller, Director of Schools for the Aberdeen Area, had requested that his area be selected for the 1952 program. It was so designated. From April 25 to May 14, 1952, most of the jurisdictions in the Aberdeen Area were visited by a representative each from the Evaluation Office and the Area Office for the purpose of stimulating interest in the forthcoming program and providing information about it. The Reservation Principals were given the responsibility for securing the cooperation of public and mission schools. They were very successful.

A training session was arranged by Mr. Keller to be held in Aberdeen, South Dakota, on September 18. The meeting was well attended by representatives of the Federal, public, and mission schools engaging in the program. A representative of the South Dakota State Department of Education and a number of County Superintendents of Schools from North Dakota and South Dakota were present. Dr. Anderson, Dr. Collister, Mr. Ladd, and Mr. Coombs attended. Testing supplies, which had previously been shipped to Aberdeen, were distributed at this meeting.

By mid-November the tests had been administered and scored, and by January of 1953 norms and interpretive devices for the Aberdeen Area had been developed. On January 30 Dr. Collister, Mr. Ladd, and Mr. Coombs again met in Aberdeen with Mr. Keller and the Area Office staff and with representatives from all of the participating schools. At this meeting the use of the interpretive devices and techniques was explained. Subsequent to this meeting, Mr. Coombs spent several days in the area holding meetings with classroom teachers in the various jurisdictions and explaining proper use of the materials to them.

The Billings Area

At the request of Miss Louise C. Wiberg, Director of Schools, the Billings Area was scheduled for the developmental testing program for the fall of 1953. Public schools in Montana were contacted with the approval and assistance of the Montana State Department of Education through its representative, Mr. K. W. Bergen.

Miss Wiberg and Mr. Coombs laid the groundwork for the program by calling at the several jurisdictions in the area during the two-week period following May 4, 1953. With the help of the Reservation Principals, they contacted a number of public and mission school administrators in Montana and Wyoming. The Reservation Principals completed this phase of the work during the summer months.

The usual training session was arranged by Miss Wiberg for September 21 at Billings, Montana. Mr. Bergen of the Montana State Department attended, together with a good representation of County Superintendents and administrators of local school systems. All Reservation Principals were present. Dr. Anderson, Dr. Collister, and Mr. Coombs attended, as did Mr. Ralph E. Kron who had replaced Mr. Ladd on the University staff.

The administering and scoring of tests proceeded on schedule and the norms and interpretive devices were constructed for the Billings Area. However, because of weather conditions and other considerations, these materials were not taken to the field until about March 1, 1954. A central meeting was dispensed with and Mr. Coombs and Mr. Kron, after calling at the Area Office, proceeded directly to the field. Through arrangements made by the Reservation Principals, they were able to present the interpretive materials to most of the teachers of the public and mission schools, as well as to the Federal school teachers.

The Oklahoma Areas

Starting in the fall of 1952 and continuing in 1953, the four reservation boarding schools of western Oklahoma had begun to develop achievement testing programs on a local scale. At about the same time the Choctaw jurisdiction in Mississippi, attached to the Muskogee Area, began a local achievement testing program. All of these programs were using the California Achievement Tests and were being assisted by the Evaluation Office. As yet, of course, area norms had not been made available.

Upon the requests of Mr. Henry A. Wall and Dr. A.B. Caldwell, Directors of Schools of the Anadarko and the Muskogee Areas, respectively, a developmental and research program was scheduled for the two Oklahoma areas for the fall of 1954. In February of 1954, Mr. Wall and Mr. Coombs called at the Bureau schools of the Anadarko Area for the purpose of laying a groundwork for the program. On February 25, they met in Oklahoma City with Dr. Caldwell and Mr. W.H. Clasby, Director of Indian Education for the Oklahoma State Department of Education, and with Mr. Haskell McDonald, assistant to Mr. Clasby. Plans for the program were sketched out at that time.

In May, Mr. Coombs called at the Seneca and Sequoyah schools of the Muskogee Area and, with Mr. Clasby, contacted several of the public school administrators of eastern Oklahoma. Through the excellent joint efforts of Mr. Wall, Dr. Caldwell, Mr. Clasby, and Mr. McDonald, a good organization of the testing program was effected during the late spring and early summer months.

Training sessions were held at Sequoyah Vocational School on September 20 for the Muskogee area and at Riverside Hoarding school the following day for the Anadarko Area. These meetings were attended by representatives of the cooperating public and Federal schools by Dr. Caldwell and Mr. Clasby in the case of the Seyuoyah meeting, and by Mr. Wall and Mr. McDonald in the case of the Riverside meeting. Dr. Anderson, Dr. Collister Mr. Kron, and Mr. Coombs were present at both sessions. Testing supplies were distributed to the schools at these meetings.

The tests were administered during October and early November, as usual, and were scored by the University of Kansas. As in the case of the other areas, separate norms and interpretive instruments were developed for each area. In February 1955, Mr. Kron and Mr. Coombs took these to the field and, in a series of meetings, presented them to both public and Federal school teachers.



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Last modified August 14, 2006