Panel of Experts Share Experiences on Collaborating to Improve Native Education

April 14, 2022

So often certain voices are not heard. The Circles of Reflection framework helps to address this barrier by providing a seat at the table for all stakeholders in educating our Native students in K-12. Circles of Reflection is designed to facilitate meaningful conversations and create opportunity for collaboration and communication among states, school districts, and tribes as they work to develop a more cultural, equitable, and responsive learning environment.

Westat’s latest Asking the Experts webinar brought together participants from the Circles of Reflection process in Oklahoma to share their experiences with the program and how they have carried forward the principles to foster change. The webinar took place on March 30 and the accessible video is now available: Circles of Reflection: Collaborating to Improve Native Education (YouTube video).

Amy Bitterman

Julian Guerrero, Jr., MPA, Director, Office of Indian Education (OIE), U.S. Department of Education, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education supported the value and promise of the Circles of Reflection framework in his opening remarks.

Panelists, who discussed the challenges they faced in supporting Native children’s education at all levels and important lessons learned from participating in the Circles, included the following:

Rich Pawpa, Indian Education Coordinator, Broken Arrow Public Schools, Oklahoma
Regina Riley, Higher Education Director, Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma
Jackie L. White, MEd, Executive Director, Office of American Indian Education (OAIE), Oklahoma State Department of Education
The panelists also shared their thoughts on how to move forward and continue the gains made in opening communications and building strategies to work together. They have good advice for other state, local, and tribal groups looking to build capacity and improve collaboration to support Native students.

Westat’s Amy Bitterman, Senior Study Director, Education Studies, moderated the event. She leads the National Comprehensive Center’s Native Education Collaborative for the U.S. Department of Education and oversees the Collaborative’s Circles of Reflection. “This webinar was a great opportunity to share the Circles of Reflection process with those who are new to it; how organizational self-reflection at all levels uncovers weaknesses and strengths; the benefits of the process in identifying priorities, action plans, and long-term goals; and the incredible value of partnerships it establishes,” noted Ms. Bitterman. “We look forward to working with other states and districts to establish this conversation for the benefit of their Native K-12 students.”

Amy Bitterman


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