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American Indian Education Knowledgbase

This KnowledgeBase archive includes content and external links that were accurate and relevant as of September 30, 2019.

The American Indian Education KnowledgeBase is an online resource to aid education professionals in their efforts to improve the education of American Indian students and close the achievement gap American Indian students have faced in public, Bureau of Indian Education, and other schools.

Task 5: Identify and Serve Special Needs American Indian Students

Guideline: American Indian students are sometimes misidentified as special education students and are over-represented in special education programs. This misidentification can result from a variety of factors, including not speaking Standard English, having hearing losses (especially from otitis-media), or coming from homes that lacked intellectual stimulation, such as being read to as preschoolers. Educators need to be aware of such circumstances that could impact a native student's performance in school.


BIEDPA Special Education Monthly Technical Assistance Call

The BIEDPA Special Education is dedicated to improving results for students with Disabilities. Starting in March 2018, the Bureau of Indian Education are starting monthly TA calls and are inviting ADD staff, ERC staff, school staff, related service providers, parents of children with disabilities to join us for our monthly TA calls that will provide information on relevant special education topics and activities.



Assistance for Indian Children with Severe Disabilties

The purpose of the program is to provide special education and related services to Native American children with severe disabilities, in accordance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  In order to qualify for this benefit program, you must be a Native American/American Indian, your child(ren) must have a disability, and you or your family member must be enrolled in a Federally recognized American Indian tribe or Alaska Native village.

Understanding Disabilities in American Indian and Alaska Native Communities: Toolkit Guide

The four symbols on the cover of the Toolkit Guide were chosen to represent the spectrum of disabilities, whether visible or hidden, that may be experienced by individuals in the American Indian and Alaska Native community. The universal meaning of each symbol is described in the captions below along with the meaning of the symbol as it is used in this Toolkit specifically.


*NEW video* National Dropout Rural Videos (2016)

In 2016, work was completed on a Rural Dropout Prevention Project, funded by the U.S. Department of Education (US ED) through its High School Graduation Initiative (HSGI). The purpose of the Rural Dropout Prevention Project (Contract No. ED-ESE-13-C-0069) was to provide technical assistance to state education agencies and middle and high schools in designing and implementing programs and securing resources to implement effective school dropout prevention and reentry programs in rural communities. The US ED awarded the rural dropout prevention project to Manhattan Strategy Group, which executed the project with assistance from the American Institutes for Research, the National Dropout Prevention Center, and Clemson Broadcast Productions. Project deliverables included producing videos focusing on dropout prevention from each state’s perspective. The videos focus on dropout prevention strategies used or challenges faced, specific to each state or selected state districts. The project provided technical assistance to fourteen states: Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

Special Education for Indigenous Student

This Indigenous Bilingual Education article uses 2006 U.S. Census Data to explore the level of special needs educational support American Indian and Alaskan Native students receive.

Issues in the Education of American Indian and Alaska Native Students with Disabilities

This 2000 ERIC Digest presents suggestions for educating American Indian and Alaska Native students with disabilities. Issues include preparation and recruitment of special educators and related service providers, the rights and responsibilities of parents, development and use of culturally and linguistically appropriate assessments, and education in the least restrictive environment.

School Culture and American Indian Educational Outcomes

This February 2014 publication by Dr. Donna Martinez explores how American Indians have the lowest educational attainment rates of any group in the United States. Researchers have attributed this educational disparity gap that American Indians experience to the lack of cultural relevance in mainstream educational settings. American Indian students perceive a cultural bias against them in classroom curriculum as well as pedagogical practices. While some states have passed legislation to support teaching about American Indians, no funding to support culturally relevant curriculum changes or teacher training accompany these measures. Successful American Indian college students learn how to develop a strong academic identity, while retaining strong cultural ties. A continuing educational gap in access to higher education, in a knowledge-based economy affects the socio-economic status of families and tribes. Incorporating tribal values into mainstream schools would not only educational connections for American Indian students, but can also enhance the learning environment for all students.

Using Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Assessments To Ensure that American Indian and Alaska Native Students Receive the Special Education Programs and Services They Need

This 2002 ERIC Digest emphasizes the need for evaluators to develop and use culturally and linguistically appropriate assessments to ensure that American Indian and Alaska Native students receive appropriate educational services and calls for the use of multiple assessments.



* Restructuring Schools to Nurture Native American Students

The high school graduation rate for Native Americans is the lowest of any ethnic or racial group in the United States. How can the government assist reservation schools while respecting autonomy of tribes? In this 2014 PBS 'News Hour" television program, Judy Woodruff talks to Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, about a series of initiatives announced by President Obama on how to undo deep-seated education challenges for Native American Indians.

Urban Rez

In 2013, Rocky Mountain PBS presented "Urban Rez," a nationally distributed documentary exploring the lasting legacy and modern-day effects of the Voluntary Relocation Program and policies that encouraged American Indians to leave their homelands and relocate to urban areas across the country from 1952 to 1973.  Additional videos include: the BIASpiritualityLanguage LossEducationCultureCommunity vs Individual, and Boarding Schools.


Alaska Is Failing Its Indigenous Students (2016)

This November 2016 Education Weekly article, authored by an Alaskan Native high school dropout, focuses on the fact that Alaska Native students have a graduation rate just above 60 percent—and a majority of the dropouts are male.  The author recalled hearing the following words from a school counselor, "You are more likely to end up dead or in jail by the time you are 25 years old than you are to finish high school as an Alaska Native male." It was 1989, we were 7th graders, many of us freshly relocated from isolated villages surrounding the interior settlement town of Fairbanks, Alaska. I was one of them, having just arrived from Vashraii K'oo (Arctic Village) with a thick village accent. School staff had pulled about 13 of us out of class to meet with a counselor. Those were his words to us as Alaska Native boys, part of a "scared straight"-type program.

American Indian Kids with Disabilities

In school year 2013–14, the percentage of children and youth served under IDEA was highest for American Indians/Alaska Natives - 17 percent. Among children and youth that received services, the 10 percent of American Indians/Alaska Natives who received services for developmental delay under IDEA were higher than the 6 percent of children overall. National Center for Education Statistics (NCES 2016).

Native Americans with Disabilities Don't Get Services

This 2003 NEA (National Education Association) article dates the National Council on Disability (NCD) has released a new report that documents that American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) with disabilities living in tribal lands are not receiving the services to which they are entitled.  The report, "People with Disabilities on Tribal Lands: Education, Health Care, Vocational Rehabilitation, and Independent Living,"  reflects the results of a project that was developed and guided to completion in collaboration with AI/AN representatives of people with disabilities, their families, and tribal leaders

Too Many Native Kids Dumped in Special Ed

This April 2016 Indian Country Today article by Tanya Lee focuses on if you are an American Indian/Alaska Native student, you are more likely than your peers to be identified as a special needs student. If you are a special needs student, you are likely to see more of the principal than your non-disabled peers will. If you are a disabled student of color, particularly AI/AN or African American, you are likely to see a lot more of the principal.  The article also states the Federal government moves against long-standing race-based disparities in special needs and ability- and race-based inequities in school discipline.  A 2014 report, “School Discipline, Restraint, & Seclusion,” released by the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, found that in the nation’s public schools, more than twice as many students with disabilities received out-of-school suspensions (13 percent) than did non-disabled students (6 percent).

How America Is Failing Native American Students

In this July 2017 article in The Nation, author Rebecca Clarren shows how punitive discipline, inadequate curriculum, and declining federal funding created an education crisis.

The contents of this website were developed under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education and are intended for general reference purposes only. However, those contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the U.S. Department of Education or the Center, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government. Some resources on this site require Adobe Acrobat Reader. This website archive includes content and external links that were accurate and relevant as of September 30, 2019.