Mountain said he’s heard from teachers in the Pojoaque school district, where many San Ildefonso pupils attend classes, that the act does not take into account cultural differences and has forced schools to focus strictly on English, leaving no room for native languages. “Once we lose our language, we lose our culture,” Mountain said.
Maggie Benally, principal of the Navajo Immersion School in Fort Defiance, Ariz., said her school is an example of what can happen when schools use native language as a tool. Pupils in grades K-2 there learn only in the Diné language and switch gradually to an English-language curriculum after that.
The school has made adequate yearly progress under No Child Left Behind for the past three years, Benally said. “Language and culture have a positive effect on student achievement,” she said.