Date of Conferral





Public Policy and Administration


Joyce Haines


Dropout rates among American Indian students have not shown significant improvement since the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001. While extensive research exists on the dropout phenomenon, no studies were found that addressed why some Navajo girls leave school and the role education narratives play in their decision. Accordingly, this study examined the narratives shaping federal and Navajo education policies in order to understand how these influence school programs. The research questions dealt with three elements that could induce Navajo girls to leave school, the institutions and programs offered by federal and tribal government entities, and the dichotomies between school and home environments. The narrative policy analysis, grounded in social construction theory, included provisional and secondary coding of the NCLB of 2001 and the Navajo Sovereignty in Education Act of 2005. Interviews with administrators from the Department of Diné Education, and a young Navajo woman who had left school, supplemented the documentary analysis. The data were triangulated and a modified network analysis conducted to glean areas of convergence and discrepancy between federal and Navajo policy constructs, based on problem statements and proposed solutions. Results indicated that school programs aligned with federal imperatives might not engage or interest many Navajo girls, leading them to abandon their studies early. The implications for social change include the need to develop programs that increase self-direction and engagement among Navajo girls, and granting indigenous peoples autonomy in deciding which educational approaches most closely align with their cultural norms and long-term objectives.