In 2013, Secretary Sally Jewell of the U.S. Department of the Interior and Secretary Arne Duncan of the U.S. Department of Education (ED) formed an American Indian Education Study Group, consisting of academics, school practitioners, lawyers, and experts in American Indian affairs. The purpose of the Study Group was to diagnose the causes of too common academic failure in Bureau of Indian Affairs-funded schools, which are some of the lowest performing schools in the country. This report discusses the nature of the systemic challenges facing the Bureau of Indian Affairs, including difficulty in attracting effective teachers to BIE schools located in remote locations, achieving compliance with academic standards in 23 different states, promoting research-based reforms in tribally controlled schools, resource constraints, and institutional and budgetary fragmentation. Based on insights and input from numerous tribal listening sessions and consultations, this report details the Study Group’s recommendations in each of the key areas of reform.
The purposes of this report are clearly stated in the executive summary: to redesign the Bureau of Indian Education from a direct education provider to an expert service and support provider, promoting self-governance and self-determination through tribal operation of schools, so that "all BIE students receive a world-class education delivered by tribes and supported by the Department of the Interior." The report, to the extent that a report can, effectively meets its purposes. The methodology used is sound, the recommendations are reasonable, and the need is especially large. For example, as one school principal explained, when the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act eliminated an existing pension system for BIA schools to a 401K system, it became nearly impossible to recruit high quality teachers who much favored a traditional pension system, available in nearly all public schools. This report also discusses the lack of modern technology in many BIA schools to help them meet the Common Core State Standards and especially the technology needs for both PARCC and Smarter Balanced assessments. If implemented, the document's utility should be high. The overall quality of the report and its recommendations make it likely to have a positive impact on student learning.