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Success Academy

How Native American Students Prepare for College (and How Colleges Can Prepare for Them)


Mary Jo Benton Lee

Picture two very different schools: one, a federal Indian boarding school emphasizing vocational training, where few graduates attend college. The other – its neighbor – an overwhelmingly white, land-grant university.
These two schools had little to no contact, until an innovative initiative turned things around. In the fall of 2000, the Flandreau Indian School began a reform effort, Success Academy, aimed at preparing all of its students for postsecondary education. Over the next decade South Dakota State University responded by committing 300 of its faculty and staff and $85,000 of its annual budget to opening the doors of higher education to Indian students who had previously been excluded.
The traditional way of increasing college access for students of color is through remediation, that is, through attempting to «fix» those presumed to be unprepared for higher learning. What sets Success Academy apart is that the educators involved chose instead to «fix» both their institutions, institutions that were actually preventing Indian students from entering college. Throughout all aspects of Success Academy programming, students’ American Indian identities are affirmed, honored – and incorporated into school culture. Ethnicity matters in each and every aspect of Success Academy.


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Chapter 3: Power Relations and Sophomore “Focus Days” 57


“The doing of critical theory has been called in the educational literature critical pedagogy,” Barry Kanpol (1999: 27) writes. This book has promised to illustrate the “doing of critical theory” by describing in some detail the Flandreau Indian School-South Dakota State University Success Academy. Critical pedagogy confronts both educators and students with questions of power and how it plays a role in teaching and learning. At issue is the fact that power in schools favors some and not others (Pozo 2003). As William G. Tierney (1993b) explains: The emphasis of a critical analysis shifts away from what strategies those in power can develop to help those not in power, to analyzing how power exists in the organization, and given how power operates, to developing strategies that seek to transform those relations. All organizational participants will be encouraged to come to terms with how they may reconstruct and transform the organization’s culture. (323) Chapter 3 begins by addressing power issues in Success Academy from a macro-structural perspective. Specifically, how is the “culture of power” (Tierney 1992: 152) being reformulated through the Success Academy partnership in strategic ways, such as the structuring of planning committees and the develop- ment of organizational budgets? 3 Power Relations and Sophomore “Focus Days” b_text_t5 8/21/2013 7:55 AM Page 57 Chapter 3 then moves on to power issues at a more micro-interactionist level. That is, how are individual students empowered through their participation in Success Academy “such that each is more affirmed in his...

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