Native American Communities Seek More Input on NCLB Waivers

The National Indian Education Association has expressed concerns about the process used by the Obama Administration to grant states waivers from the Adequate Yearly Progress benchmarks of the No Child Left Behind law. In a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, signed by the NIEA President Quinton Roman Nose, the administration wanted to know the steps the Education Department officials took to make sure that the states requesting waivers had sought and received input from Native American communities within their borders.

 NIEA’s concerns stem from what has been learned from Native education advocates on the ground. In New Mexico, Native communities were not meaningfully engaged by state education officials in the shaping of the initial waiver application.

Although Native students fall under the aegis of NCLB, so far there has been no effort to solicit their views. Even though one of the selling points of NCLB was the increased focus it would bring on students of American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian descent, in the waiver applications so far, the states have “lumped” these groups with other minorities in a “super-subgroup category.” According to Roman Nose, this lack of attention to the problems unique to the Native students seriously undermines educators’ efforts to address them through the NCLB provisions and help Native students improve their academic outcomes.

The letter requests that all past waivers be reviewed for this oversight, and the process for granting them be altered to allow such input to be solicited and considered in the future.

NIEA has already indirectly weighed in on the waiver process through its role as member of the Campaign for High School Equity, the leading coalition for advancing high-quality education for all high school students of color. In January, CHSE expressed its own concerns about the waiver process. Last month, NIEA formally declared its support for maintaining No Child/ESEA’s accountability provisions in response to the markup of the proposed Student Success Act by the House Education and the Workforce Committee.