Tribes, education agencies will collaborate to support Native American students

With the support of a $2.44 million federal grant, tribal leaders have begun working with state agencies to improve educational opportunities and outcomes for Native American students. 

“It’s exciting coming to the table for this important work,” said Joyce McFarland, the education manager for the Nez Perce tribe. “I don’t think we’ve ever had the chance to have a conversation like this … I’m eager to see what this collaboration yields for Idaho’s American Indian students.”

Tribal education leaders from across the state will meet with partners at the State Board of Education and Idaho Department of Education quarterly for the next five years. The first meeting took place in December. 

Jessica James, education program manager for the Shoshone-Bannock tribes, said that though many tribal schools are ranked low when it comes to performance, tribal leaders have felt that their voices haven’t always been heard in the search for solutions.

“This program gives tribes a more meaningful role in these conversations, especially for tribal children on tribal lands,” she said.

The goals of the collaboration include improving efforts to:

  • Consult tribes: Work with education agencies to increase, track, and ensure meaningful tribal consultation (a federal requirement)
  • Learn from each other: Create two-way professional development between the agencies and tribal education leaders
  • Increase self-identification: Understand the barriers to self-identification of Native American students and explore new ways to encourage self-identification (which is “essential to access available services and ensure more accurate data of student progress,  according to a press release from the IDE)
  • Ensure accurate, actionable data: Ensure that assessment data collection provides accurate information that is actionable at both the statewide and educator levels

The collaboration will also aim to build partnerships with districts and charters on the tribal homelands of the Coeur d’Alene, Nez Perce, and Shoshone-Bannock tribes.

“American Indian and Alaskan Native students have unique educational needs,” McFarland said. “This grant is a step towards giving tribes a more significant role in identifying solutions for improving academic achievement of tribal students.”

The Nez Perce tribe was the lead applicant for the federal Department of Education grant, which was one of four such awards given in 2023. McFarland, James, and Christine Meyer, director of education for the Coeur d’Alene tribe, worked together on the grant application and implementation. 

The group will meet again in early March. 

Further reading: Take a look at EdNews’ special series, “Still Here: Tribes fight to be seen in Idaho classrooms”

Carly Flandro

Carly Flandro

Carly Flandro reports from her hometown of Pocatello. Prior to joining EdNews, she taught English at Century High and was a reporter for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. She has won state and regional journalism awards, and her work has appeared in newspapers throughout the West. Flandro has a bachelor’s degree in print journalism and Spanish from the University of Montana, and a master’s degree in English from Idaho State University. You can email her at [email protected] or call or text her at (208) 317-4287.

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