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NCLB Outrages

Education leader decries 'No Child Left Behind'

NCLB is crowding out the broader purposes of Indian education, and the danger to our students is very real.''
--David Beaulieu, president of the National Indian Education Association

by: Rick St. Germaine

GREEN BAY, Wis. - David Beaulieu, president of the National Indian Education Association, lobbed a bombshell in his keynote address before the opening general assembly of the annual National Indian School Board Association conference July 18.

''The Title VII Indian Education Act programs, meant to serve the special unique cultural needs of American Indian students, are getting to look more like Title I [compensatory education] and may soon disappear,'' noted Beaulieu, who cautioned hundreds of delegates assembled at the broad gathering of Indian school leaders to guard against the loss of their heritage in the school curriculum.

''Issues of tribal culture, language, cognition, community and socialization are central to learning,'' added Beaulieu, ''and [they are] being dangerously overlooked as the federal government rushes to push Indian schools to meet the artificial standards of the No Child Left Behind mandate.''

The Indian Education Act program, to which he referred, has historically been the most dependable resource for ''culturally based education,'' a broad-based Indian school-wide approach to meet the special needs of Native children.

Beaulieu, director of the Arizona State University Center for Indian Education, warned that schools for American Indians are increasingly re-orienting their course offerings away from culturally based education in favor of programs in reading and math.

The No Child Left Behind initiative of the Bush administration aims to make schools accountable for the academic progress of every child.

The U.S. Department of Education pointed out that total NCLB funding for American Indians and Alaska Natives has increased by $94 million, or an added 47 percent, to more than $297 million. NCLB grants awarded by the department are increasing Indian students' achievement, increasing the high school graduation rates and preserving and teaching the Native language and culture, according to a recent posting on the NCLB Web site, www.nclb.gov.

But Beaulieu and the National Indian Education Association disagree.

Beaulieu cited numerous voices crying out for relief from NCLB mandates in field hearings conducted by NIEA throughout the country.

''NCLB is crowding out the broader purposes of Indian education,'' exclaimed Beaulieu, ''and the danger to our students is very real.''

''Witnesses are telling us that the formula Title VII grant programs are being told they can't offer Native language or culture in their schools,'' Beaulieu continued.

''The [government] has completely overlooked the Native Languages Act of 1990 and the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978 to preserve and protect the rights of Native Americans to use and develop Native American languages,'' he added.

Among the handful of recommendations recently proposed to the Bush administration, NIEA called for ''the development of a doctrine of 'trust' in the area of education and the convening of meaningful intergovernmental cooperation as indicated within the purposes of the Indian Education Act,'' according to Beaulieu.

— Rick St. Germaine
Indian Country Today


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