An excerpt:

The Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 is a big win for Indian country, according to the National Indian Education Association. Executive Director Ahniwake Rose, Cherokee/Creek, and Federal Policy Associate Dimple Patel explained why in a January 27 webinar, “Understanding the Every Student Succeeds Act.”

ESSA, signed into law by President Obama on December 10, reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, a piece of civil rights legislation meant to protect the nation’s most vulnerable children. ESSA replaces the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act and shifts much of the responsibility for elementary and secondary education from the federal government to the states.

Tribal Consultation

For the first time ever, states and local educational agencies (LEAs) are required to engage in meaningful consultation with tribes or tribal organizations in the development of state plans for Title I grants. Further, LEAs must consult with tribes before making any decision that affects opportunities for American Indian/Alaska Native students in programs, services or activities funded by ESSA.

“Consultation means better decisions will be made for our students…. We believe that this provision alone is going to change the way our students are perceived and worked with in our school systems,” said Rose.

The key, she said, will be to help schools and LEAs understand what meaningful consultation is. NIEA will be working with the Department of Education and states to make sure consultation occurs at the earliest possible stage and prior to the development of any programs, initiatives or policy.

Native Language Immersion Programs

Funds awarded under a new Title VI (the new title for Indian Education) grant may be used to fund Native language immersion programs in public schools. The intent is to help Native peoples use, practice, maintain and revitalize their languages and cultures and to improve educational opportunities and student outcomes in AI/AN communities, said Rose. A Language Immersion Study will identify best practices.

To read the entire article, click here.

The Senate on Wednesday passed an overhaul of the George W. Bush-era No Child Left Behind law, sending the measure to President Obama’s desk.

Senators approved the conference report worked out by House and Senate negotiators in a 85-12 vote — eight years after the original law expired. The House passed the legislation in an overwhelming vote last week.  The White House said that Obama will sign the legislation Thursday morning.

All 12 votes against the bill came from Republicans, who argued the legislation didn’t go far enough. The “no” votes included Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), a presidential candidate.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), another presidential candidate, missed the vote but made his opposition clear in a statement.

“In many ways, the conference report was worse than the original Senate bill — removing the few good provisions from the House bill that would have allowed some Title I portability for low-income students as well as a parental opt-out from onerous federal accountability standards,” he said in a statement ahead of the vote. “The American people expect the Republican majority to do better.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), also missed the vote, while Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) voted “yes.” Both are running for president.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who is challenging party front-runner Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, missed the vote.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) suggested that passing the legislation after years of failing to agree to a deal is the latest example of how the upper chamber is “working” under a Republican majority.

“Finding a serious replacement for No Child Left Behind eluded Washington for years. Today it will become another bipartisan achievement for our country,” he said. “The new Congress and the new Senate have had a habit this year of turning third rails into bipartisan achievements.”

To read the entire article, click here.

UPDATED

Christmas seems to have come early this year for education advocates. After weeks of long and hard negotiations, House and Senate lawmakers have reached preliminary agreement on a bill for the long-stalled re-authorization of the No Child Left Behind Act, multiple sources say.

The agreement will set the stage for an official conference committee, which would likely kick off next week. The legislation could be on the floor of the House and Senate by the end of this month, or early next, sources say. (Nothing set in stone on timing just yet.) 

So far, the word isn’t official. Neither the House nor the Senate education committee has confirmed.

No hard-and-fast details available yet, although those are likely to trickle out in coming days. But if I were a betting woman, I’d put money down that there will be some language asking states to intervene in the bottom five percent of their schools, and schools with high drop-out rates.

No provision for so-called Title I “portability,” smart money says. (School choice fans might have something to cheer about anyway). And many smaller programs may have been rolled into a big giant block grant, according to folks familiar with earlier drafts of the proposal.

Sources familiar with previous versions of the agreement also say the odds are good that a new program for early childhood education made it into the compromise.

Some of the biggest sticking points towards the end of negotiations were said to be secretarial authority, authorizations, and accountability. So where did things end up?

We’ll find out soon enough for sure.

But the accountability provisions in earlier drafts were said to be pretty complicated, which makes sense, given the nature of bipartisan compromise.

“Based on what I’ve seen, for the next Secretary, interpreting the new law will be like looking at a Rorschach with one eye closed and with both hands tied behind their back,” said Charlie Barone, the policy director at Democrats for Education Reform, who served as an aide to Rep. George Miller of California, the top Democrat on the House education committee, when NCLB was written.

But that complexity could actually be a boon to state and local control, especially since the compromise includes nearly all of the restrictions on the Secretary’s authority that were in the House and Senate versions.

“The complexity helps,” said a GOP aide. The agreement “leaves a lot of this to states to figure out and the secretary’s ability to interfere with those state decisions is astonishingly limited.”

UPDATE [Nov. 13, 10:20 am] Overall, everyone walked out of negotiations with his or her biggest priority intact, the aide said. “Everybody has a lot to be happy about,” said a GOP aide who participated in the negotiations.

  • Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., got her early childhood education program, which the Obama administration also really wanted, plus some additional accountability, including on subgroups.
  • Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House education committee, got many programs placed into a block grant.
  • Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the chairman of the Senate committee, got limitations on secretarial authority. That includes new limits on teacher evaluations, turnarounds, tests, you name it.
  • And Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., got some beefed-up subgroup language, which Murray also fought very hard for. The administration also wanted to see some subgroup accountability.

So what’s in the bill?  To read the entire article, click here.

An excerpt:

“This language (English), which is good enough for a white man and a black man, ought to be good enough for the red man. It is also believed that teaching an Indian youth in his own barbarous dialect is a positive detriment to him. The first step to be taken toward civilization, toward teaching the Indians the mischief and folly of continuing in their barbarous practices, is to teach them the English language.”

—Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs
September 21, 1887

“It is a great mistake to think that the Indian is born an inevitable savage. He is born a blank, like all the rest of us. Left in the surroundings of savagery, he grows to possess a savage language, superstition, and life. We, left in the surroundings of civilization, grow to possess a civilized language, life, and purpose. Transfer the infant white to the savage surroundings, he will grow to possess a savage language, superstition, and habit.”

—Carlisle Indian School founder Colonel Richard Pratt, 1892

QUICK STORY:  We recently completed an incredibly successful program on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, for Browning High School (a public school) and initiated by a couple of progressive teachers and administrators.  The program tapped into Blackfeet people’s long history of powerful orators and focused on public speaking with an emphasis on storytelling.  This program touched on four values very profound and powerful for Blackfeet people (Amskapipikuni): storytelling, Blackfeet history, Blackfeet language and public speaking. 

How do we know that it was “incredibly successful?”  Simple.  Because the students were engaged.  A bunch of Blackfeet kids voluntarily choosing to present their stories, dance and poems to their community in a public setting in front of hundreds of people.  Powerful  Beautiful.  Like their eloquent and practical ancestors. 

They loved it. 

Let’s be clear: NO ONE loves public speaking.  According to Psychology Today, most people would rather DIE than speak publicly.  Psychology Today says “We are afraid of being rejected from the social group, ostracized…We fear ostracism still so much today it seems, fearing it more than death, because not so long ago getting kicked out of the group probably really was a death sentence.”

But these beautiful Native students loved it.  They were incredible at it.  Owned the moment.  Why?

Because the teachers showed them, from Blackfeet history, how they were born to do this. The teachers showed them how these gifts—language, storytelling, oratory—were literally in their blood. How their stories, their language are their strength and by mastering these gifts they were they doing their part to carry on a very proud and very ancient tradition. 

Those kids got permission, from their own culture, to be great.

Blackfeet Students with rapper Frank Waln. Photo by Wesley Roach, Lakota
Blackfeet Students with rapper Frank Waln. Photo by Wesley Roach, Lakota

There was no “shy Indian kids” here.  It was not perfect (for example, it is crucial that the district implement this program K-12—it’s hard to fit 12 years of practical application of Native history and language into one year), but it was undoubtedly great.  These prodigious Native kids did something that NOBODY else, of any color or age, enjoys and they did it incredibly.  Other Native kids will do the same when their studies are presented in this light.

WHY AM I TELLING YOU THIS?  Well, because every single Native community desperately needs to follow the Miccosukee Tribe of Florida’s lead and take back control of educating their most precious resources—Native children. 

See, the Miccosukee Tribe of Florida recently showed that they will not forsake tribal history, language or storytelling anymore in the name of national standards.  The Tribe applied for (and received) a waiver from the Department of Interior and also Department of Education that recognizes the Tribe’s sovereign right to define what “Adequate Yearly Progress” is and, guess what?  It will be better than what is required under federal law, the No Child Left Behind Act. 

To read Gyasi Ross’ opinion piece in its entirety, click here.

 

An excerpt:

A tribal school in Florida has been granted relief from the most onerous provisions of No Child Left Behind, making it the first tribal school in the nation to win its own waiver from the nation’s main federal education law.

The Miccosukee Indian School joins more than 40 states that have already won flexibility from No Child Left Behind by setting forth an alternative plan to hold their schools accountable. The Miccosukee school’s plan includes academic standards that cover not just math and English, but also the Miccosukee language and culturally relevant science.

It also aims to cut academic achievement gaps at the school in half over the next six years, which means its annual performance targets are different than Florida’s.

“Our standards include rigorous educational benchmarks and reflect the unique history, heritage, tradition, language, culture and values of the Miccosukee Indian Tribe and our people,” said Colley Billie, chairman of the tribe.

U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced the move Monday, saying it is a sign of the Obama administration’s broader commitment to ensuring that tribes have control of their children’s education.

“This is a historic day,” Jewell said during a ceremony at her office. “It’s all about tribal self-governance, self-determination, and it starts with making sure the people who care most deeply about these children are the people that are making decisions for them.”

To read the entire article on http://www.washingtonpost.com, click here.

Schedule Committee Action for 10 a.m. Tuesday, April 14

Tuesday, April 07, 2015Margaret Atkinson / Jim Jeffries (Alexander): 202-224-0387

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 7 – Senate education committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) today announced a bipartisan agreement on fixing “No Child Left Behind.” They scheduled committee action on their agreement and any amendments to begin at 10 a.m. Tuesday, April 14.

Alexander said: “Senator Murray and I have worked together to produce bipartisan legislation to fix ‘No Child Left Behind.’ Basically, our agreement continues important measurements of the academic progress of students but restores to states, local school districts, teachers, and parents the responsibility for deciding what to do about improving student achievement. This should produce fewer and more appropriate tests. It is the most effective way to advance higher standards and better teaching in our 100,000 public schools. We have found remarkable consensus about the urgent need to fix this broken law, and also on how to fix it. We look forward to a thorough discussion and debate in the Senate education committee next week.”

To read the bill, click here.