Tribal Schools Not Adequately Educating Kids

By Tom Bacon

A federal watchdog agency has issued a scathing report on failure of the Bureau of Indian Affairs to educate Native American children in tribal schools. The Government Accountability Office audit found that students in tribal-run schools score much lower in reading and math than Native American kids who attend public schools. There are 10 tribal schools in the northwest - eight in Washington State and one each in Idaho and Oregon - plus a tribal college in Washington.

The report blames lax and confused management of the tribal school system (the Bureau of Indian Education), fragmented administrative services and a lack of clear lines of responsibility which resulted in a breakdown of even basic education services, such as enough textbooks for students.

Auditors said that tribal school students on average scored 22 points lower on reading and 14 points lower in math than did Native American students at public schools. And the graduation rate in tribal schools is only about 61 percent.

The auditors called for immediate improvements in decision-making and management controls to comply with federal law, and to justify the $850-million spent yearly to run tribal schools. Larry Echo Hawk of Idaho began a reform movement when he was secretary of Indian Affairs, but he left the job in 2012 after three years to take on a larger role in the Mormon Church.
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