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Native Americans' input sought for new education law

BISMARCK--Top education officials met Wednesday at the United Tribes Technical College's annual Tribal Leaders Summit to discuss what's at stake under the the new federal education law.

BISMARCK-Top education officials met Wednesday at the United Tribes Technical College's annual Tribal Leaders Summit to discuss what's at stake under the the new federal education law.

The Every Student Succeeds Act, passed in December, is a rewrite of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 to allow for more state control over education.

Ahniwake Rose, executive director of the National Indian Education Association, told the audience the rewriting of North Dakota's state plan should be considered extremely important for Native Americans.

"Why is this such a big deal?" she said. "That's because Indian people have never been included in the development of a state education plan."

Rose sat on a panel at the summit's education discussion on Wednesday, which also included Lucy Fredericks, director of Indian and multicultural education for the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction; Ann Marie Bledsoe Dawnes, acting director of the Bureau of Indian Education; and Nancy Greene-Robertson, secretary and treasurer of the Spirit Lake Tribe, Fort Totten.

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The Department of Public Instruction will host a tribal consultation meeting Oct. 21 at the state Capitol to talk with tribes and other tribal organizations about the development of the North Dakota state plan, according to Frederickson.

Native American students comprise 10.6 percent of North Dakota's total enrollment, Fredericks said.

"It's very important we hear from our tribes ... and that we include (their input) in our state plan for North Dakota," said Fredericks, adding that the state will submit its plan in March.

Kirsten Baesler, state superintendent of public instruction, has formed a 40- to 50-person ESSA planning committee, which has met three times and will meet again within the next seven months to prepare the state's application.

New provisions under ESSA include the use of a "school dashboard," and there will no longer be annual yearly progress reports, which will allow multiple factors to be used when summarizing a school's measure of quality.

Rose, who encouraged tribal members to step forward and talk with educators about what they'd like to see in the plan, said the National Indian Education Association is creating a consultation guide.

The association also recently hired a tribal policy employee, who will be monitoring state implementations of ESSA.

"We have come up with a list of about 11 states that we're going to be investing in highly, and North Dakota is one of them," Rose said.

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"This is a huge change for us, and we're going to be doing as much as we can to make sure that your voice is heard really loud and clear, and to make sure that it's a coordinated effort because our kids ... they're so migratory. They're going from (Bureau of Indian Education) schools, to a charter school, to a public school, and they're hopping back and forth; they're going from reservation to non-reservation land," she said. "What can we do to help preserve a continuity in their education system?"

Related Topics: EDUCATION
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