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American Indian Education KnowledgeBase

This KnowledgeBase archive includes content and external links that were accurate and relevant as of September 30, 2019.

The American Indian Education KnowledgeBase is an online resource to aid education professionals in their efforts to improve the education of American Indian students and close the achievement gap American Indian students have faced in public, Bureau of Indian Education, and other schools.

Bureau of Indian Affairs Schools

In response to a request from several U.S. Senators the Government Accountability Office undertook a review of the federally funded schools operated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Department of Defense. The resulting report was issued in September, 2001. Summary information on the BIA schools is reproduced below. The report looked at information on student academic performance, teacher staffing, access to educational technology, the condition of facilities, and expenditure levels for each system.

The report's summary indicated the following in regards to the BIA schools.

The academic achievement of many BIA students as measured by their performance on standardized tests and other measures is far below the performance of students in public schools. BIA students also score considerably below national averages on college admission tests. Academic performance has been strongly associated with educational and income levels of parents, and students in BIA schools often come from family settings where education, employment, and earning levels are lower than the national average. BIA school administrators indicate that nearly all BIA teachers are fully certified for the subjects or grade levels they teach, although several officials said that some schools experience considerable difficulties recruiting and retaining qualified staff. In terms of educational technology, access levels to computers and the Internet reported by BIA school administrators exceeded those of public schools, but technical support to maintain computers and to assist teachers with using technology in the classroom was more limited than in public schools. Problems with school facilities were reported by many school administrators. For example, administrators at more than 60 percent of responding BIA schools reported having at least one building in inadequate condition compared with about a quarter of administrators at public schools surveyed by the Department of Education in 1999. Finally, the estimated per-pupil expenditures for BIA schools vary widely by school type (for example, day or boarding), but are generally higher than for public schools nationally. A number of factors distinguish BIA schools from public schools, which may add to their costs. For example, a high proportion of BIA students have special needs, and BIA schools support a broader infrastructure (such as sewer and water systems) than most public schools.

To explain the nature of the BIA schools the report offered the following background information. For those not familiar with the BIA schools it provides a good overview.

  • In the 1999-2000 school year BIA schools served less than 10 percent of all Indian students enrolled in elementary and secondary schools in this country.
  • Though located in 23 states; over 70 percent of the schools are in four states: Arizona, New Mexico, North Dakota, and South Dakota.
  • The schools are located primarily in rural areas and small towns and serve Indian children living on or near reservations. Individual school enrollments range in size from 14 to over 1,000 students, but a little over half of the schools enroll fewer than 250 students; most are combined schools spanning both elementary and secondary grades.
  • About one-third of the schools have a residential component; that is, they board at least a portion of the students who attend the school.
  • While education programs and activities of BIA schools are administered by the BIA's Office of Indian Education Programs (OIEP) each school is governed by its own independent school board, which has authority over functions such as hiring personnel, adopting budgets, and setting policy.
  • An important aspect of the BIA school system is the agency's support and encouragement of tribal control of school programs. In school year 1999-2000, 108 schools, or about two-thirds of all BIA-funded schools, were operated by tribes or tribal organizations under grants, contracts, or compacts with BIA; the remainder were operated by BIA.
  • Besides funding through the BIA, these schools also receive funding under other federal education programs.

To read the complete report click on the source document below.


GAO Report 01-934, September 2001 - BIA and DOD Schools: Student Achievement and Other Characteristics Often Differ from Public Schools, U.S. Government Accountability Office, Washington D.C.

The contents of this website were developed under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education and are intended for general reference purposes only. However, those contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the U.S. Department of Education or the Center, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government. Some resources on this site require Adobe Acrobat Reader. This website archive includes content and external links that were accurate and relevant as of September 30, 2019.