Advocates for Native American students fear the state No Child Left Behind Act waivers may end up allowing schools and districts to ignore Native students and lead to a loss of information on their progress.
The National Indian Education Association, a nonprofit advocacy group for Native students, sent a letter late last month to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan expressing its concerns and asking for some assurances.
The department granted waivers to 11 states in February, and some of those, including Colorado, Minnesota, and New Mexico, had significant numbers of Native students, according to the association. Twenty-six other states either plan to apply for waivers or have done so.
Some of the granted waivers allowed all racial and ethnic minorities to be put into a "super-subgroup" category, and advocates are concerned about the visibility of American Indian and Alaska Native students.
According to the letter from Quinton Roman Nose, president of the association:
"One of the over-all benefits of NCLB was the 'visibility' of American Indian and Alaska Native students in schools. Prior to this level of accountability, many schools did not have to disaggregate their data by their respective student enrollment. This level of accountability by the SEA and LEA for American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian student achievement must continue. We are concerned that the super-subgroup category allowed under the new waiver process may not be detailed enough to provide visibility on the progress of American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian students."The letter asks federal officials to detail the steps that have been taken to ensure the input of American Indian and Native communities has been or will be considered in the waiver requests. Some grassroots Native communities, many of which are in rural areas, have said they were not meaningfully engaged by state officials, according to the association.
The association also took issue with the A-F grading systems being used by some states, saying that may hide achievement gaps between Native and non-Native students.
The association commended President Barack Obama's previous efforts to support Native students, specifically referencing an executive order signed in December to expand and improve their educational opportunities.
For more information on the waivers, I'd encourage you to check out my colleague's Politics K-12 blog, which has been following this issue closely.