American Indian children educated in schools run by the federal government score worse on standardized tests than 79 percent of students nationwide, a new report says.
The report is the first such compilation of test scores at schools run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, an Interior Department official said. It was compiled by the bureau itself and has been released to tribes and others for comment.The report blames many shortcomings on a lack of leadership sometimes actual lack of leaders, as shown by a 33 percent turnover rate among principals, use of acting directors of the Office of Indian Education Programs for five out of the past six years and 11 vacancies on the 40-person headquarters staff.
Bureaucratic turf battles also contribute to the problems, it says.
"Collegiality, the act of putting aside vested interests and working for the good of the whole, is found in America's best educational institutions but is often missing in the BIA system, where administrators are sometimes more interested in shoring up and expanding their administrative domain," the report says.
The 260-page document asks tribal leaders, school boards and others to consider an "effective schools" strategy including steps to hold BIA educators more accountable for their students' performance.
It also suggests expanded authority to waive Indian hiring preferences, and loans to educate prospective teachers that would be increasingly forgiven the longer the teachers stayed at work in a bureau school.
The report says pressure to hire Indian teachers now 41 percent of the teaching staff means some are poorly trained and "deficient in the basic reading, writing and mathematical skills they were expected to teach." Some of those checked for the study had failed state certification tests, which all teachers now are supposed to pass.