Leaders of the Navajo Nation and Utah education officials met on Friday to sign an agreement aimed at improving education for Navajo students in the state.

SALT LAKE CITY — Navajo Nation leaders and Utah education officials met Friday to sign an agreement aimed at improving education for Navajo students in the state.

The memorandum of understanding creates a collaborative effort for the sharing of student performance data to contribute to the development and implementation of best practices, as well as keep students from falling behind as they transition between Utah's public schools and schools operated by the Bureau of Indian Education.

"We feel that the sharing of data will only help us to be better informed and make better decisions in helping all students achieve academic success and be prepared for the experiences that they will have as they leave the public education system," said Karl Wilson, director of Title I and federal programs for the State Office of Education.

The agreement follows changes to the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, commonly known as FERPA, which until recently blocked the exchange of student information with tribal educational agencies.

Wilson said the law was revised in 2011, granting official recognition to tribal agencies and allowing for an exchange of data in the same way data is shared between state education departments.

"For years the representatives of the Navajo Nation have sought an agreement with the Utah State Office of Education to more effectively share data regarding Navajo students in Utah," he said. "The data sharing (agreement) is the culmination of a long collaborative effort."

Rex Lee Jim, vice president of the Navajo Nation, said the agreement will help create a partnership between tribal leaders and the state with the goal of seeing that all children in Utah are academically prepared.

"We just signed an agreement with an understanding that we will commit to one another to help promote the best education we can offer to our children," Jim said. "We look forward to a wonderful relationship."

State Board of Education Chairwoman Debra Roberts, who participated in the signing along with Superintendent of Public Instruction Martell Menlove, said the agreement will help educators work together to increase the literacy and numeracy of Utah's children. 

"We desire and intend to keep those promises to every child, including every child of the Navajo Nation," Roberts said.