Many educators and policymakers in American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities are concerned that the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) will fall short of their goal to ensure the preparation of all students for college and/or career.

This paper explores how the CCSS could affect AI/AN students, and examines how to best implement the standards to increase the likelihood for college and career success for this group of students. Specifically, the paper describes:

  • The importance of understanding the diversity among AI/AN communities
  • Why today’s education reforms might be viewed as forced assimilation
  • How previous education reforms have failed
  • What needs to happen for the CCSS to work
  • The impact of No Child Left Behind

In addition, the paper includes recommendations for how local and state education agencies, researchers, and policymakers can best proceed to help prepare AI/AN students to succeed in college and/or career.

To view the report, click here.

TEDNA Member Representative Leslie Harper Named Tribal Leadership Negotiator on ESSA Rulemaking Committee


The U.S. Department of Education today named committee members who will draft proposed regulations in two areas of Title I, Part A of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This is the latest step in the process of implementing ESSA.

“We look forward to working with the committee to promote equity and excellence for all students by providing states and school districts with timely regulations so that they can plan ahead and support students and educators,” said Ann Whalen, senior advisor to the secretary, delegated the duties of the assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education.

ESSA replaces the outdated No Child Left Behind law and expands on the work this Administration, states, districts and schools across the country have already started. The new law will help build on key progress that we’ve made in education over recent years—including a record high school graduation rate of 82 percent, significant expansion of high-quality preschool, and a million more African American and Hispanic students enrolled in college than in 2008, when President Obama took office.

ESSA promotes equitable access to educational opportunities in critical ways, such as asking states to hold all students to high academic standards to prepare them for college and careers and ensuring action in the lowest-performing schools, high schools with low graduation rates, and in schools that are consistently failing subgroups of students. Maintaining effective, high-quality assessments and ensuring that all states and districts know how to meet the updated “supplement not supplant” requirement are crucial to achieving these objectives.

For more information, click here.

Important developments are expected in Indian country in 2016. Here are some of them:

Kevin Washburn Leaving BIA; Lawrence Roberts to Take Over

Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin K. Washburn, Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma, will be leaving his post in January to return to teaching at the University of New Mexico School of Law. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Lawrence “Larry” Roberts, Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin, will take over the position for the remainder of President Barack Obama’s term.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said in a statement, “With Larry’s leadership, I am confident we will continue the strong momentum rooted in tribal self-determination and self-governance that Kevin has helped reignite.” Roberts has been with the department since 2012. Before that, he was General Counsel of the National Indian Gaming Commission.

During his tenure Washburn has overseen the settlement of past disputes between the federal government and tribes, convinced Congress to make funding contract support services mandatory, revised the federal acknowledgment process, updated right-of-way regulations and improved the land-into-trust process. On his watch, the Bureau of Indian Education has begun a complete reorganization that will eventually turn over control of most of its schools to tribes.

Supreme Court to Decide Dollar General Case

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Dollar General v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, expected in the spring, will have profound implications for justice in Indian country. Should the court rule against the tribe, it would reaffirm the Doctrine of Discovery and severely limit the ability of tribal courts to protect tribal members – even children – on their own lands from abuses, a right that both the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 and the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization of 2013 expanded.

The court heard oral arguments on December 7 and the justices seemed to lean toward favoring Dollar General’s position that the tribe could not bring a civil suit for the alleged sexual assault of a child against an entity that operated a business on tribal lands, despite the fact that the business had consented to be subject to tribal jurisdiction.

Suzette Brewer quoted legal experts as saying that Dollar General could be the “most potentially devastating case for Indian tribes in half a century.”

The Supreme Court will decide at least two other Indian cases in 2016, according to the Native American Rights Fund’s Tribal Supreme Court Project. On December 1, the Court heard oral argument in Menominee Indian Tribe v. United States and on January 20 it is scheduled to hear oral argument in Nebraska v. Parker, which pertains to tribal regulatory authority over non-Indian communities located within reservation boundaries.

New Education Law Will Go into Effect

President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 into law December 10. ESSA is the first reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary School Act since 2001 when the highly-criticized No Child Left Behind Act passed during George W. Bush’s administration.

ESSA offers both opportunities and challenges for Indian country; as always, the details of how the law is implemented will be critical. On the one hand, the law offers much less federal oversight of education, a factor that could work against minority children, poor children, immigrant children and children with disabilities, groups whom the original 1965 federal education law was designed to protect. On the other hand, it mandates the participation of tribes and tribal organizations in local and district school board decision-making and provides expanded funding for programs such as immersion language learning.

National Indian Education Association Executive Director Ahniwake Rose, Cherokee, says, “This [law] is a huge change for Native education, the first steps toward self-determination over public education on our lands. It is the first time states and local educational agencies will have to talk to tribes. And it authorizes the STEP program, making more tribes eligible to run and operate federal programs. When tribes, governments, schools and the community have an active voice in the [schools their children attend], that’s the best step you can take to improve education.”

Carcieri ‘Fix’ Remains Elusive

Efforts to find a Congressional “fix” to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2009 decision in Cacieri v. Salazar have so far failed to make much headway. The court ruled that the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act authorized the Secretary of the Interior to take land into trust only for tribes under federal jurisdiction at the time the IRA was passed. The “clean fix” advocated by many tribes would affirm Interior’s authority to place land into trust for all recognized tribes and affirm the department’s previous trust decisions. However, many members of Congress want the “fix” to give local governments more say in federal land-into-trust decisions; some proposed legislation has even given states and counties veto power.

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Chairman John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, in July introduced a compromise measure. The Interior Improvement Act (S. 1879) would affirm Interior’s past land-into-trust decisions and would give the department authority to accept land into trust for all federally recognized tribes. It would not give local governments veto power over federal trust decisions but would require Interior to consider input from those governments. It would also fast track applications in which the tribe has forged cooperative agreements with nearby local governments and would require judicial review of all land-into-trust decisions. The United South and Eastern Tribes have expressed their support for the legislation. The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs gave the bill its okay on December 2.

New Regs for Implementing Indian Child Welfare Act Due Out

Even as the Bureau of Indian Affairs implements new guidelines for implementing the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act, adoption agencies and states are challenging the law. In July, the Goldwater Institute filed a proposed class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona challenging the constitutionality of the ICWA and the BIA’s guidelines. The case involves children whose parents’ rights have been terminated and who live off-reservation.

The BIA is now working on new regulations (as opposed to guidelines) for implementing ICWA to ensure uniformity in the way the law is implemented by state courts and agencies. The proposed regs were published in the Federal Register in March.  Comments were due in May.

An excerpt:

Hear that collective whoop from the Capitol? That’s the sound of education advocates and lawmakers cheering at the finish line as the first rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in more than a dozen years sails through Congress and on to the White House. 

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday approved the rewrite of the withering No Child Left Behind Act—the current version of the ESEA—by a huge bipartisan margin, 85 to 12, mirroring the vote of 359 to 64 in the U.S. House of Representatives just days earlier. President Barack Obama is expected to sign the bill tomorrow.

But even as educators and policymakers toast the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, the next set of battles—over how the measure will be regulated in Washington and implemented in states—may just be getting started. 

The bill, sponsored by Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Reps. John Kline, R-Minn., and Bobby Scott, D-Va., would roll back the federal footprint in K-12 education for the first time in nearly a quarter century, putting states in the driver’s seat when it comes to accountability, teacher evaluation, school turnarounds, and more.

At the same time, it seeks to maintain what Murray and Scott call important “guardrails” to fix flailing schools and help close the achievement gap between traditionally overlooked groups of students—those in poverty, racial minorities, students in special education, and English-language learners—and their peers. (Everything you ever wanted to know about the bill here.) 

Additional articles are here and 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.

An excerpt:

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Wednesday approved a sweeping revision of the contentious No Child Left Behind law, sending to President Obama’s desk a proposal that ends an era of federal control in education policy after 14 years.

The legislation, which passed the Senate by a vote of 85 to 12, would restore authority for school performance and accountability to local districts and states after a lengthy period of aggressive federal involvement. While it keeps the existing annual testing requirements in reading and math and requires that states act to improve the lowest performing schools, it allows more local control to set goals, determine school ratings and decide remedial measures.

“I believe it inaugurates a new era of innovation and student achievement by putting the responsibility for children back in the hands of those closest to them: parents and classroom teachers, and others,” Senator Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Republican who heads the Education Committee, said Tuesday.

Mr. Obama is expected to sign the bill, the product of a conference committee of the House and Senate that passed easily in the House last week with bipartisan backing.

No Child Left Behind, George W. Bush’s signature education initiative, had passed with strong bipartisan support in 2001. It introduced high-stakes standardized testing to gauge students in reading and math from the third to eighth grades, with the ultimate goal of making every student proficient in those subjects by 2014.

But as time went on, more schools faced sanctions, including closings, as they failed to meet what turned out to be an unworkable expectation. Republicans and Democrats alike backed away from the law as it became apparent that its penalties for struggling schools were overly punitive.

To read the entire article, click here.