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NCLB Leaves Native American Students Behind

Indian Education Group Issues Report on Law's Impact

A report issued by the National Indian Education Association (NIEA) shows that the federal No Child Left Behind Act is, in fact, leaving Native American students behind and contributing to a "crisis in Indian education."

The "Preliminary Report on No Child Left Behind" (PDF, 149 KB, 28 pages ) was commissioned by NIEA and the Center for Indian Education at Arizona State University to provide insight on the impact that the federal education act has had on American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian students and the educational institutions they attend.

"We are facing a crisis in Indian education," said David Beaulieu, president of NIEA. "Many areas of the NCLB Act do not fit or respond to the needs of Native communities -- particularly those in rural areas. Our teachers and administrators are equally feeling the impact and we are experiencing significantly higher turnover rates among our personnel nationwide."

Collectively, said Beaulieu, the net effect of NCLB has been largely negative in Indian Country, whose students already have the highest dropout rates of any ethnic group in the country. Tribal leaders, school administrators, teachers, parents and even students, have voiced their concerns about being labeled as "failures" because of an unfunded federal mandate that demands results but does not supply resources to meet expectations.

NEA President Reg Weaver said in a formal statement  concurring with the report's findings, "Labels don't help children learn. The report documents that American Indian children are internalizing the system's failures as their own personal failures."

Among the report's findings are the following:

  • NCLB is rigid and tends to leave children behind.
  • Schools need resources to meet the demands of NCLB.
  • The few successes that have been achieved have clearly been at the expense and diminishment of Native languages and cultures.
  • The approach dictated by law has created serious negative consequences.
  • Schools are sending the message that if our children would just work harder they would succeed, without recognizing the Act's own systemic failures.
  • Indian children are internalizing the system's failures as their own personal failures.
  • Children have different needs.
  • NCLB does not provide the funding that is needed to achieve its goals.
  • Music, art, social studies, and languages are completely ignored and have been diminished by the law.

October 2005