The Education System Serving American Indian Students
During the 2005-06 school year, American Indian students comprised some 644,000 public elementary and secondary school students, or about 1 percent of all public school students. If regarded as a state population, American Indian students would represent the 27th largest state by student enrollment in the country, comparable in size to such states as Kentucky, Louisiana and Oklahoma. The great majority, some 92 percent, of American Indian students attend regular local public schools that fall under the jurisdiction of pertinent state and local educational authorities.
The U.S. Department of the Interior’s BIE schools enroll approximately 8 percent of all American Indian public school students in 184 BIE-funded schools. Sixty-one of these schools are operated by the BIE and 123 by tribal authorities themselves, either under BIE contracts or with grants. During the 2009-10 school year, BIE schools served 46,524 American Indian students. These schools were located on 63 reservations in 23 states. If treated as its own school district, the BIE would rank, by enrollment, in the top 100 out of nearly 16,000 school districts in the nation (Tribal Leaders Speak 2010).
A Need to Serve
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) assessed the achievements of 4th, 8th, and 12th grade students. In 2007, American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) students had a lower reading average than White and Asian and Pacific Islander students in both 4 and 8th grade. Additionally, AI/AN students in 4thand 8th-grade scored lower than White and Asian and Pacific Islanders in NAEP mathematics, but higher than African American students. In 2011, fourth grade AI/AN students scored lower on average in mathematics than non- AI/AN students and eighth-grade AI/AN students scored 19 points lower on average in mathematics than non-AI/AN students (SACNAS).
On average, AI/AN college-bound seniors who took the SAT college entrance exam in 2007 scored below the national average on the critical reading, mathematics, and writing sections of the exam (NAEP).
Nagivating towards a Solution
In Executive Order 13592 (EO 13592), President Obama supports expanding educational opportunities and improving educational outcomes AI/AN students and commits to furthering tribal self-determination to help ensure that AI/AN students have an opportunity to learn their Native languages and histories in addition to receiving a complete and competitive education. Several additional pieces of legislation serve as primary levers to support AI/AN K-12 education. They provide funding opportunities to create high achieving students and education accessibility at a national level. Below are the ones that explicitly address AI/AN education.
The fiscal year 2012 appropriation for the Department of Education includes funding for a pilot program under the Indian Education National Activities authority. Under the pilot, the Department will award competitive grants to tribal education agencies (TEAs) to increase their role in the education of American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) students, including education to meet the unique educational and culturally related academic needs of AI/AN students and improve their academic achievement.
Regional Educational Laboratory, “Profiles of Partnerships Between Tribal Education Departments and Local Education Agencies“
Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning, “American Indian Education: “The Role of Tribal Education Departments,” May 2009
Elementary and Secondary Education Act
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) is intended to equate the achievements of K-12 students and their schools. By means of funding and a plan to increase accountability, the Act aims to create high achieving students and education accessibility at a national standard.
In particular, ESEA addresses the current achievement status of AI/AN students. Title VII of the ESEA’s primary function is to reform and support AI/AN education by ensuring that these students receive every opportunity and resource necessary to obtain and exceed the national standards. The push for AI/AN education equality emphasized in Title VII has led to the development of several grant programs and comprehensive agency plans to meet the needs of these students. Below are links to read Title VII and additional information on the ESEA in terms of American Indian and Alaska Native education.
Title VII Grant Programs
- Formula Grant Program
- Demonstration Grants for Indian Children
- U.S. Department of Education Grant Awards Database
- Johnson O’Malley - The Johnson O’Malley (JOM) program purpose is to meet the needs of AI/AN students attending tribal and public schools through the use of supplemental education programs.
The Title VIII, Impact Aid Program, of the ESEA provides financial assistance to school districts affected by Federal activities. The program compensates local educational agencies (LEAs) for the expense of educating federally connected children. Funding for these LEAs generally goes towards teacher salaries, computers, curricular materials, regular and special instruction programs, and utilities. The Impact Aid statute authorizes funding to LEAs on behalf of students who live on certain Indian lands. An LEA with students living on Indian lands is required to consult with the parents and tribes of these children in regards to their education. The LEA must develop and file with the Department of Education a set of Indian policies and procedures describing how it meets this requirement.
Title VIII Grant Programs
- Reauthorization of the ESEA
A new pilot program was proposed as apart of the ESEA reauthorization. This pilot will give tribal educational agencies (TEAs) more opportunities to engage in collaborative work with State agencies.
- AIAN 2010 Census Data
- Percentage Enrollments of AIAN Students
- National Indian Assessment Progress (NAEP): National Indian Education Study
For more information on student demographics, please visit:
- U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Status, Trends in the Education of American Indians and Alaska Natives, September 2008.