Deep Community Engagement at the Native American Community Academy (NACA)

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Publication Date
15 Feb, 2018

Students who attend the Native American Community Academy (NACA) demonstrate academic achievement, proficiency, retention, graduation, and college attendance rates that far outpace their Native American peers at the district, state, and national levels. This is just one proof point that NACA, a charter school in Albuquerque, NM, is delivering on its mission. It was founded in response to community demand for a school that addresses the identity, wellness, and college preparation of Native American and Indigenous students. NACA grew into the NACA Inspired Schools Network (NISN), an Indigenous Education Network, to expand its culturally-responsive, community-led model.

NACA leaders consider it their duty to have an ongoing dialogue with families and the community about their needs and bring in many perspectives to shape the NISN schools. Given the historical context and trauma of Native Americans being educated in boarding schools that aimed to remove their cultural identity, NISN schools make identity development and cultural instruction and preservation a core value. The six NISN schools currently serve families from 50 tribes and 18 ethnicities.

NISN developed a Leadership Fellows (NISN Fellows) program designed for educators, administrators, and community leaders interested in starting or expanding a school or program focused on Indigenous education. The fellowship aims to teach participants how to “build relationships with communities, to learn and analyze local needs, and successfully complete the charter school or grant application processes needed to open schools” that focus on Indigenous education. This is the only Indigenous education-focused school leadership and development program in the country, and NISN Fellows complete a yearlong residency at NACA as part of their training.

Watch this case study to learn more about the community engagement and cultural identity work of NACA and the NISN Fellowship, and hear from (in alphabetical order):

  • Andrew, NACA High School Student
  • Kara Bobroff, NACA Founder & NISN Executive Director
  • Chuck Charleston, NACA Navajo Language Content Facilitator & Teacher
  • Corina Chavez, NISN Director of School Evaluation & Design
  • Anpao Duta Flying Earth, NACA Head of School
  • Harmony, NACA High School Student
  • Josiah, NACA Middle School Student
  • Lucía Verónica Carmona, NISN Fellow
  • Olivia, NACA High School Student
  • Sage Fast Dog, NISN Fellow
  • Summer, NACA High School Student 

Native American Community Academy at a Glance info

Video 1. Introduction: An Imperative to Serve Indigenous Students and the Native American Community

This segment introduces NACA, the flagship school that grew into the NISN CMO designed to effectively support the “identity, culture, language, college preparation, and community” of Native American and Indigenous students. NACA students, teachers, and leaders, along with NISN staff and Leadership Fellows, describe NACA’s foundation, mission, and history. The video also highlights the historical context of Native American education in the U.S. and why community engagement is crucial to NACA’s mission and continued development given this context.

Video 2.  Responding to Community Needs and Maintaining a Connection

This video explores NACA’s culturally responsive, community-led model that aims to develop a sense of identity and wellness and prepare students for college. NACA leaders and educators foster partnerships with families and the larger tribal community to achieve this goal. This video describes how NACA was founded through community engagement and how families are still involved in identifying student strengths and needs, participating in cultural activities, and supporting students’ academic and non-academic growth.

Video 3. Developing an Identity and Preserving It for the Future

This segment explores NACA and NISN’s work to build identity in students, leaders, and future generations. It looks at instructional courses and practices that develop students’ cultural identities and how culturally-responsive curriculum and practices improve student achievement and college readiness. This includes access to instruction in five different native languages, alongside English courses, to develop language acquisition and cultural identity. NISN received funding in 2016 from the Charter Schools Program (CSP) Grants for Replication and Expansion (R&E) of High-Quality Charter Schools. NACA and NISN leaders and Fellows explain how the CSP R&E grant enabled the NISN Fellowship to develop more schools and programs to serve the unique and varied needs of Native American students in several different communities and contexts.

Video 4. Conclusion: The Growth NACA and Indigenous Education

This video explores NACA and NISN schools’ academic and non-academic results. NACA and NISN leaders reflect on how they see their student, community, and Leadership Fellow programs continuing to evolve. Importantly, members of the NACA community give advice, based on their experiences, to other charter schools that are working to develop culturally-responsive programs and improve Native American and Indigenous student outcomes.


The content of this case study does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Department of Education (ED), nor does any mention of curricula, trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsements by the U.S. government. This case study does not constitute a formal statement of federal law, legal requirements, or ED policy and should not be construed as creating or articulating the legal requirements or policy from ED.