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WASHINGTON Last week, the Obama Administration took another step in implementing Executive Order 13592, its federal initiative on improving Native education, when three federal agencies released agreements on preserving Native languages and expanding educational opportunities for American Indian and Alaska Native students.
Executive Order 13592
The two memorandums of agreement come after the Obama Administration held the Fourth Annual White House Tribal Nations Summit, its convening with the nation's federally recognized tribes. At the event, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan reaffirmed the administration's commitment to improving Native education and highlighted efforts such as the State-Tribal Education Partnership (STEP) Pilot Program, which provided $2 million in grants to four tribes developing their capacity to support student success.
Under the first Memorandum of Agreement the US Department of the Interior's Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) will work together with the Department of Health and Human Services's Administration for Native Americans, and the Department of Education on encouraging programs and projects to preserve and promote instruction of Native languages. Under the nonbinding agreement, the three agencies intend on identifying and reducing barriers to Native language instruction.
The departments also intend to identify research and methodology for collecting and disseminating data on Native language programs, as well as ensure that Native language programs provide coordinated, evidence-based instruction that can be monitored through assessments of student achievement.
In a letter National Indian Education Association to Bureau of Indian Education Acting Director Brian Drapeaux, Administration for Native Commissioner Lillian Sparks (a former National Indian Education Association Executive Director), and William Mendoza, the Executive Director of the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education, National Indian Education Association applauded the three agencies Americans for striking the agreement.
The National Indian Education Association also provided specific recommendations on implementation. This included: Increasing the opportunities for researchers to analyze the quality of Native language programs provide additional resources for researchers; ensuring that existing research is made free and easily accessible for their work; and involving Native organizations and communities in developing high-quality programs.
The agreement on Native languages also comes amid efforts by the National Indian Education Association and other Native education advocates to push for the reauthorization of the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act. The law, first enacted in 2006, provides federal grants to Native language immersion programs that both keep our cultures alive and help students gain bilingual language skills that can also help them stay on the path to lifelong success.
In last week's special edition of the Advocacy Wire, NIEA asked members to call on Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Chairman Daniel Akaka to use the clearance process for reauthorizing Esther Martinez; this process fast-tracks the law's passage.
Native language instruction
Under the second Memorandum of Agreement the Obama Administration reaffirms the federal government's trust obligation to improve Native education as outlined in the United States Constitution. Under the agreement, which is part of fulfilling Executive Order 13592 and Section 9204 of the No Child Left Behind Act/Elementary and Secondary Education Act, BIE and the Department of Education will be able to reduce bureaucratic barriers to improving Native education, and expand educational opportunities that can help improve Native student achievement.
The agreement also allows for the Department of Education and BIE to work more closely on supporting Native student success both within BIE schools, traditional public elementary and secondary schools, and students attending tribal colleges and universities as well as other higher education institutions. Under the agreement, the Obama Administration will also work to build the capacity of tribal education departments to play stronger roles in directing student learning, as well as improve the collection of data and statistics to improve Native education.
Just the Facts: National Indian Education Association's Federal Education Policy
Board Member Mary Kim Titla testified last month before a US Senate Committee on Indian Affairs subcommittee about the need to pass the Native CLASS Act and importance of reforming Native education.
At an event on reducing the racial wealth gap held by Insight Center for Community Economic Development, NIEA President Dr. Heather Shotton also discussed the need to improve Native education in order to help our students stay on the path to higher education.
posted December 12, 2012 7:40 am est