Education | National

Secretary Jewell announces Bureau of Indian Education reform

Students at Santa Fe Indian School in New Mexico. Photo from Facebook

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced plans to reform the Bureau of Indian Education in order to improve student achievement and strengthen tribal sovereignty.

The Blueprint for Reform was developed in consultation with tribal leaders, Indian educators and other experts. It calls for a top-to-bottom restructuring of the BIE to put more control in the hands of tribal communities.

“The future of Indian Country rests on ensuring American Indian children receive a world-class education that honors their cultures, languages and identities as Indian people,” Jewell said in a press release. “The redesign of the BIE reflects President Obama’s commitment to promoting tribal self-governance and self-determination, enabling the BIE to more effectively support tribal educators who best understand the unique needs of their communities.”

According to a
secretarial order, the changes will be implemented in two phases over the 2014-15 and 2015-2016 school years. The first phase involves a reorganization of the BIE that will include the creation of an Office of Sovereignty and Indian Education

"The office will focus on supporting tribal sovereignty by building the capacity of tribes to operate high performing schools and allowing tribes to shape what their children learn about their tribes, language and culture," the order states.

The second phase focuses on improving performance at BIE schools. Support teams will be established to create specialized plans for success.

“We have a moral obligation to ensure that we are providing Indian children with the quality education that they deserve," Monty Roessel, the director of the BIE, said in a press release. "This redesign is a critical step in supporting each Tribe’s capacity to educate future generations of students who are prepared for college and a career and know and value their heritage.”

The BIE oversees 183 elementary and secondary schools on 64 reservations in 23 states. Of these, 59 are run directly the BIE and are mostly located on the Navajo Nation.

Another 124 are operated by tribes under self-determination contracts or under the Tribally Controlled Grant Schools Act.

Overall, some 48,000 students attend BIE schools.

Get the Story:
Is Educational Change Coming For Native Americans? (NPR 6/16)
A Step Toward BIE Reform? (Dropout Nation 6/13)
Daunting Challenges in Obama's Bid to Reform Indian Education (Education Week 6/13)

Relevant Documents:
Press Release: Secretary Jewell Announces Plan to Improve Achievement, Promote Tribal Control in Bureau of Indian Education-Funded Schools | Findings and Recommendations Prepared by the Bureau of Indian Education Study Group Submitted to the Secretaries of the Departments of the Interior and Education | Secretarial Order No. 3334

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Consultation sessions to discuss reform in Indian school system (3/28)

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