March 12, 2014

The Office of Indian Education (OIE) is seeking tribal leader input on the State Tribal Education Partnership (STEP) program, one of three discretionary grant programs within the Office of Indian Education at the US Department of Education (ED). The STEP program is a grant program to support tribes’ efforts to meaningfully participate in the education of American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) children. We invite your input on the questions provided below, and on any other issues that you believe the Department should consider in improving the program.

The program began as a pilot in fiscal year 2012 and we want your input on how we can improve the major elements of this program based on grantees’ experience to-date, for a potential new grant competition in fiscal year 2015, pending Congressional appropriations. We are posting questions regarding any revised requirements, priorities, and selection criteria for STEP on this blog and we encourage all tribes to share their comments with us.

The program would fund the development of collaborative agreements, entered into by tribal education agencies (TEAs), State educational agencies (SEAs) and/or Local education agencies (LEAs), where the TEAs would perform certain State- or LEA-level functions under State-administered Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) formula grant programs for schools located on or near reservations (or former reservations in Oklahoma). It is important to note that the Department is not able to award formula funds, only funds appropriated for this program. Also note that eligible TEA funds under the STEP program do not include formula funds going directly to Local educational agencies.

Please understand that posts must be related to the STEP program and should be as specific as possible and limited to 1,000 characters. All opinions, ideas, suggestions, and comments are considered informal input and ED will not respond to any posts. If you include a link to additional information in your post, we urge you to ensure that the linked information is accessible to all individuals, including individuals with disabilities. We look forward to receiving your ideas and suggestions, however, the input you provide in these posts may or may not be reflected in any final STEP requirements, priorities, or selection criteria or in other policies.

STEP Topic Areas for Consideration
Below are four topic areas which you may respond to as blog comments or you may download a document at the STEP Resources page link: STEP form. Depending on your version of Adobe Acrobat you may be able to fill the document in online before printing. The document can then be printed, scanned and emailed back to: when completed.

If you are inserting your comments in the blog itself, we recommend that you identify the topic number(s). You may also need to submit multiple comments depending on the length of your comments.

Topic I: Would you be in favor of a change in the STEP program, to include the goal of coordination among the SEA, LEA, public schools that are on the tribe’s reservation, and tribally-controlled schools, to facilitate the sharing of information regarding the tribe’s students?

__Yes __No

If yes, what information about students should be shared, and for what purpose(s)?

Topic II: Should this goal be accomplished through:
a) Consortia of tribes applying in concert with SEA(s), LEA(s), and/or schools, to achieve economies of scale and enable a widespread e.g., regional data system.


b) By single grants to TEA-SEA-LEA partnerships?

__a __b

Topic III: Would you be in favor of a change in the STEP program, to include the TEA’s involvement with not only public schools on the reservation, but also nearby off-reservation public schools that serve a certain number or percentage of students from the tribe (under agreement with affected LEAs as well as the SEA)?

__Yes __No

Topic IV: Should the STEP application require a description of the funds and other resources the grantee and its partners will use to sustain the activities funded by the grant, after the grant’s completion e.g., resources from the SEA, LEA, or Tribe)?

__Yes __No

Topic V: We are interested in what level of involvement TEAs should take on under the STEP grants. To complete this activity follow these instructions.

A. Click on the following STEP document link to access the activity.
B. The document that opens up has nine TEA topic area groupings.
C. Within each grouping are three vertical activity boxes and three blank boxes.
D. Number the activity boxes for each grouping from 1 to 3 with “1” your highest priority, “2” your second priority and so on.
E. Rank in priority order all nine topic areas (black boxes) in order of preference with “1” being your highest priority, “2” your second priority and so on.
F. Congratulations! You have identified your tribe’s preferences for administering certain SEA functions within a STEP framework.

Please feel free to explain your preferences, including a description of activities that you are already doing in the public schools. You are not limited to these topic areas in providing comments.

Submitting your STEP form to OIE
You have the following options for submitting your completed form and any additional comments to the Office of Indian Education:

1. Once you fill in the STEP form online click the button on the lower right to open up a blank email. Insert in the address line and click send; or
2. Fill in the document online, print the document and fax to 202-205-0606 or scan and email to:

NOTE: We are posting this document on a moderated site. That means all posts will be reviewed before they are posted. We intend to post all responsive submissions on a timely basis. We reserve the right not to post comments that are unrelated to this request, are inconsistent with ED’s website policies, are advertisements or endorsements, or are otherwise inappropriate. Please do not include links to advertisements or endorsements, as we will delete them before we post your comments. Additionally, to protect your privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information such as Social Security numbers, addresses, phone numbers, or email addresses in the body of your comments. For more information, please be sure to read the “comments policy.”

Again, thank you for your interest in this historic opportunity to support American Indian and Alaska Native education. Below are links to EDs linking policy and disclaimer statements.

o Department of Education’s linking policy
o Department of Education’s disclaimer of endorsement

Native American English Learners Re-opened its Request for Information (RFI)

The U.S. Department of Education has now re-opened its request for information (RFI) on Native American English learners. The purpose of the RFI is to gather information pertaining to the identification and placement of Native American students who are English learners in language instruction educational programs. We developed this RFI to help State educational agencies, local educational agencies, schools, tribes, and other interested entities identify, share, and implement practices for accurately identifying Native American students who are English learners.

We received more than 30 responses to the first posting of the RFI in March 2013 and are re-opening the response period in order to give interested parties additional time to submit written responses. All of the responses will be available to the public.

You may access this document at the following link:

You may access instructions on how to respond at the following link:

Written submissions in response to this RFI must be received by the U. S. Department of Education on or before August 2, 2013.

Request for Information To Gather Technical Expertise Pertaining to the Identification and Placement of Native American Students

On March 4, 2013, the Title III Group in the Student Achievement and School Accountability Programs office in OESE published a request for information in the Federal Register to gather information pertaining to the identification and placement of Native American students who are English learners in language instruction educational programs. The U.S. Department of Education’s goal in making this request is to help State educational agencies, local educational agencies, schools, tribes, and other interested entities identify, share, and implement practices for accurately identifying Native American students who are English learners.

You may access this document at the following link:

Written submissions in response to this RFI must be received by the Department on or before 5:00 p.m., Washington, DC time, on May 3, 2013.

Summer 2011 Issue of the School Turnaround Newsletter

The Summer 2011 issue of the School Turnaround Newsletter is now available! The newsletter is a resource for states, districts, and schools who are undergoing school turnaround under the School Improvement Grants (SIG) program. This issue highlights NEA’s work with SIG schools under the Priority Schools Campaign, provides an example of a successful state monitoring system, and features an interview with a principal on implementing extended learning time. Past issues of the newsletter can be found here.

The Power of Mentors

I’m headed to Dallas in a few days to give a keynote speech at the national conference of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBS). I’m excited to be able to meet the wonderful staff, mentors, and mentees who are part of this organization, and to help them reaffirm their commitment to serving our neediest youth, particularly those from low-income and minority backgrounds. Studies have shown that mentors have a positive effect on all aspects of their mentees’ lives — in school, at home, and with friends. Organizations like BBBS are also critical partners for our schools and districts, to provide the necessary support our children need for academic and personal success.

This event also has a special meaning for me, because I was invited to speak by one of my own mentors, Dr. Raymund Paredes, who serves as the chair of Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Nationwide Hispanic Advisory Council, and is currently the commissioner of higher education for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. I first met Dr. Paredes as a college student at UCLA, and he’s become one of my most trusted mentors and advisors. I’m honored to be able to share my own experiences with wonderful mentors like Dr. Paredes, and to provide encouragement to current mentors who are changing lives, one on one.

Next Week: Education Stakeholders Forum on TA and Comprehensive Centers

I’ll be hosting an Education Stakeholders Forum to be held Wednesday, May 11th, 2011, at 1:00 p.m., at the Department’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. We’ll be soliciting input and feedback on how we can improve the delivery of technical assistance through our partnership with Regional Comprehensive Center.

For more information, please visit this page: Information about Education Stakeholder Forum meetings and registering

Thanking Mrs. Silverman

Cross posted from the blog.

I still remember how nervous I was during my first day of school, as a new kindergartener at Fremont Elementary. As the daughter of Mexican immigrants, I only spoke Spanish at home. So, I was worried about how I would fare in school. Would I understand what my teacher was saying to me? How would I make friends? What if I didn’t like school?Mrs.Silverman

Thanks to Mrs. Silverman, I didn’t have to worry about any of that. She welcomed me into her classroom and helped me fit in, even going so far as to set up a play date for me and a classmate, Brenda, who would go onto be my best friend. Gradually, she taught me my second language, while never devaluing or trying to erase my first. Most importantly, she showed me how magical learning could be, and set me on a path to academic success.

It is in large part because of Mrs. Silverman that I became a teacher. To this day, I have a photo of her with some of my classmates and me that appeared in a district newsletter. And whenever I have the opportunity to speak about the power of education, my story always seems to come back to Mrs. Silverman. Every so often, I do a search online for her, to see if I can find her, and tell her in person how much she’s done for me.  I haven’t found her, but I’ll continue to share broadly my memories of Mrs. Silverman. Maybe that’s my way of thanking her over and over again for all that she did for me – though I sure would like the chance to tell her in person.

SIG Regional Conferences – Save the Date!

I hope many of you received a Save the Date notice a few weeks back for our regional capacity building conferences on successfully implementing School Improvement Grants. OESE is partnering with its Comprehensive Centers to connect educators, administrators, and practitioners together to learn from one another and begin creating peer networks and communities of practice. We have four conferences planned for April and May, each in a different location and catering to different audiences. Some basic information on the conferences are below, but watch more detailed information on registration coming soon!

Date/Location  Region Conference Theme
April 5-6, 2011
Los Angeles, CA 
Western (CA, UT, CO, NV, OR, WA, HI, AZ, NM)
California CC, West/Southwest CC, Northwest CC, Pacific CC
Contact: Meg Livingston Asensio,
The Role of State, District, and School Leadership in Turning Around Low Performing Schools 
April 13-14, 2011
Washington, DC 
Eastern (DC, DE, MD, PA, NJ, VA, WV, SC, TN, GA, LA, AL, MS, FL, PR, USVI, ME, NH, MA, RI, NY, KY, NC, VT, CT)
New England CC, New York CC, Mid-Atlantic CC, Appalachia CC, Florida and Islands CC, Southeast CC
Contacts: Robin Ahigian, and Jan Phlegar,
The Role of State, District, and School Leadership in Turning Around Low Performing Schools 
May 18-19, 2011
Chicago, IL 
Midwest (MI, IL, IN, IA, WI, OH, MN, plus interested others)
Great Lakes West CC, Great Lakes East CC, NHSC
Contact: Barbara Youngren, 
High School Turnaround

May 24-25, 2011
Denver, CO 
Central (NE, ND, SD, KS, MO, AR, OK, AK, TX, MT, ID, WY, plus BIE and interested others)
North Central CC, Mid-Continent CC, Texas CC, Alaska CC (plus BIE and interested others)
Contact: Anne Tweed, 
Rural School Turnaround and Serving Native American Students

High-Performing Schools

I’ve made clear in this blog and in my other communications that we are focused and committed to helping states and districts improve their persistently lowest-performing schools.  Perhaps because of this, we’ve received quite a few questions about what this Administration is doing for those high-performing schools in the country.

Our Blueprint for Reform, or our proposal to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), actually has quite a few things to say about supporting and rewarding high-performing schools, in addition to our investment in low-performing ones.

Our proposal calls for every state to ensure that its statewide system of accountability rewards schools and districts for progress and success, requires rigorous interventions in the lowest-performing schools and districts, and allows local flexibility to determine the appropriate improvement and support strategies for most schools. All students will be included in this accountability system that builds on college- and career-ready standards.

Our plan also calls for us to celebrate and reward states, districts, and schools that do the most to improve outcomes for their students and to close achievement gaps, as well as those who are on the path to have all students graduating or on track to graduate ready for college and a career by 2020. All schools will be aiming to do their part to help us reach that ambitious goal, and for most schools, leaders at the state, district, and school level will enjoy broad flexibility to determine how to get there. You can visit for more information about our proposal for reauthorization.

Highlighting Technical Assistance at the National Title I Conference

This past Monday, I had the pleasure of leading a technical assistance (TA) session at the National Title I Conference in Tampa, Florida. In addition to sharing information on OESE’s TA plan and the changes we are making at the Department to better support states and districts, we also featured a “Response Panel” of three state directors at the session. The panel provided some immediate feedback on my TA presentation, offered suggestions for OESE on further improving TA, and discussed how, as state directors, they are rethinking TA themselves to support their local districts and staff.

One of the concrete tools I shared with all the participants of the session was the rubric we created to honestly assess ourselves on the quality and effectiveness of our TA. It was so great to hear reactions from panelists on the rubric – several said they wanted to develop something similar in their own states! That signals to me that we are on the right track in shifting our mindset within OESE to emphasize support for those on the ground, and I know we have big plans ahead as we continue to implement our TA plan.

In addition to the TA session, I also gave brief remarks at the Opening Session of the conference, which a local radio station covered here. They even posted a YouTube clip of the end of my speech, which you can watch below: