Your Comments Needed: Proposed Ruled Imposes Stricter Requirements for Native American Education

Updated: Jan 15

The Bureau of Indian Education has published a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) regarding the “Secretary of the Interior’s obligation to define the standards, assessments, and accountability system consistent with ESSA for BIE-funded schools.” Scroll down to submit your comments.


Our colleagues in the Native American, Alaska Native, and Hawai’ian Language communities have asked for our assistance in improving the rule proposed by the Bureau of Indian Education. Specifically, the proposed rule:

  • Requires the use of English for ALL academic assessments, even if English is not the primary instructional medium at the school;

  • Allows for a waiver request to the Bureau of Indian Education, whereas Native American Language Immersion Schools, which are regulated by the United States Department of Education, are not required to request a waiver of this requirement.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which is part of Title III, Part A, the “English Language Acquisition and Language Enhancement Act,” requires that nothing in Title III “limit the preservation or use of Native American Languages.”


Please send your comments to the Bureau of Indian Education.

You can do so in one of two ways:

JNCL-NCLIS's comments are below. We encourage you to use our comments as you see fit:

Example comments:


In 2016, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the United States Department of Education, and the United States Department of Health and Human Services issued a joint report called A New Chapter for Native American Languages in the United States.Pages 9 and 19-20 of this report include recommendations for assessments for Native American language medium schools:

  • "Explore flexibilities and alternatives, such as exemptions of students in Native American language medium schools from standardized tests that are written and conducted in English."

Moreover, §3124(3) of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which is part of Title III, Part A, the “English Language Acquisition and Language Enhancement Act,” requires that nothing in Title III “limit the preservation or use of Native American Languages.”


The United States Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Education, should align its rules on assessing academic subjects other than English Language Arts, with those of the United States Department of Education.


As noted by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Commission on Language Learning in its report, America’s Languages: Investing in Language Education for the 21st Century,

  • “Native American languages are distinct in political status as full official mediums of education of American governments, and are the object of tribal-, state-, territorial-, and federal-operated reclamation and retention efforts aligned with the Native American Languages Act of 1990 as well as parallel school- and community-based efforts including total use as official languages of instruction of all subjects at all grade levels parallel to the use of English in the majority of American school jurisdictions.”

Moreover, the benefits of biliteracy accrue particularly for Native American, Alaska Native, and Hawai’ian children, as twenty years of research demonstrate that proficiency in these languages positively effects:

  • Academic achievement, retention rates, and school attendance;

  • Local and national achievement test scores;

  • Well-being, self-esteem, and self-efficacy; and

  • Resiliency to addiction and the prevention of risky behaviors.

Finally, preserving Native American languages is integral to preserving Indigenous knowledge based on thousands of years of observation and application of natural laws and is essential to addressing challenges facing our country and global community today. The preservation and transmission of Native American, Alaska Native, and Hawai’ian Languages is not only a sacred trust responsibility of the United States. For Native American youth, learning Native American Languages.


By aligning standards appropriately, and allowing for clear, reasonable pathways to permit academic assessments in Native American Languages, the Bureau of Indian Education would better meet its obligations to Native American Languages.