American Indian Education KnowledgeBase

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.

Element 1: Foundations and Current Status of American Indian Education

Purpose: To ensure educators, in support of American Indian students, understand the historical principles which guides the academic journey of these students, the challenges and barriers which impacts these efforts, and current trends and research which are the basis for Indian education programs today.

Educators will:

  1. Understand the concept of tribal sovereignty and the relationship between Indian tribes, states, and the federal government's Bureau of Indian Education.
  2. Understand past efforts to assimilate Indians through English-only assimilationist schooling and the opposition Indians may show to efforts at forced assimilation.
  3. Know the lasting effects of the Indian New Deal of the 1930s on American Indian education.
  4. Understand the effects of the Red Power Movement, Indian Self-Determination, and United Nations human rights declarations on American Indians and American Indian education.

Activity 1: Understand the History of American Indian Education

American Indian tribes negotiated a multiplicity of treaties with the U.S. government, which then imposed upon them a number of laws and policies to promote the educational development of American Indian children.

Activity 2: Understand the Current Laws, Funding, and Academic Resources for American Indian Students

The federal government has responded to treaty provisions enacted between tribal governments and the United States which required educational support for American Indian children by developing and implementing educational programs in response to the federal trust responsibility of the U.S. Government.  The following Tasks will outline that response to treaty obligations.

Element 2: American Indian Cultures

Purpose: Educators will increase awareness and understanding of the breadth and scope of cultural diversity that exists among American Indian tribal communities, as well as shared values and traditions of American Indian people.

Educators will understand:

  1. What makes someone an American Indian, and what is a tribal nation today?
  2. What is an extended family?
  3. What is the significance of traditional American Indian values, such as humility, interconnectedness, and reciprocity?
  4. What should all Americans know about American Indians?

Activity 1: Understand Tribal and Family Structures

Educators will understand the process of federal recognition of tribes, tribal enrollment, and treaty making that has impacted American Indian tribal people since the founding of the United States. Educators will also learn about the structure and the importance of American Indian tribes, clans, bands, and extended families to American Indians.

Activity 2: Understand American Indian Traditional Tribal Values

Educators will understand and respect the importance of cultural values and traditional concepts which help to shape the mindset of American Indian children and their families.  Educators will understand the complex challenges faced by American Indian children in today’s classroom as a result of conflicting value systems.

Element 3: Understanding Your School and Community

Purpose: Assessing American Indian students’ academic performance and developing culturally-based education approaches in collaboration with local tribes, Indian organizations and Native communities are essential for improved educational opportunities.  Educators should:

  • Examine current American Indian achievement assessments, attendance, dropout and graduation rates;
  • Collaborate with tribes and Native communities, and;
  • Collaborate with national American Indian organizations and the National Indian Education Association (NIEA).

Activity 1: Take a Snapshot of Your School and Community


Activity 2: Work with and Involve Community and Parents

Task 2: Communicate With and Involve Parents

Guideline: Parental involvement is at the core of building effective, quality school climate in support of improved academic performance for American Indian children.  The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires tribal consultation; parent-family engagement, community involvement, and school collaboration in the education of American Indian children as well as mandating specific communications from schools to parents and tribes.  Educators need to be aware of how they communicate and collaborate with parents of Native children in order to more effectively engage parents in the process of education for their children.

ELL Family Toolkit

The English Learner Family Toolkit was created to help families choose education services that meet their child’s needs. U.S. educators, elementary and secondary school teachers, principals, and other school staff can also share the toolkit as a resource for English learners and their families.  The English Learner Family Toolkit consists of 6 chapters, and each chapter contains 5 sections - an overview, enrollment, family and student rights, questions to ask schools, tips, and resources. Download the complete toolkit by using the quick links for the information needed most.

ESSA Parent Outreach Tool Kit

This State of Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction website provides some parent outreach materials to parents on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) including: ESSA plans (translated into several languages), an ESSA parents guide, ESSA newsletters and handouts, and ESSA videos flyers. If you are looking for something better tailored to your district or school, please Click here and Choose your State via the United States map below.

Parent Guidance Handbook 2003

"This Parent Handbook is provided by the Bureau of Indian Affairs as a tool for all Native American parents of school-aged children as an aid in advocating for their children's education. This manual serves as a template for each tribe and state to adapt to their specific needs, concerns, and culture."

Parents' Guide - Deparment of Education

This Parents' landing page from the Department of Education provides parents with support links for: Early Childhood Education, Reading Resources, Special Education (Developing Your Child's IEP), Homework Tools, and College Aid/Financing.

Working Together: An Education Handbook For Alaskan Native Families

Written with Alaskan Native families as its audience this resource's content may be useful for other communities as well.

Working Together: School-Family-Community Partnerships

Developed for New Mexico school communities, "this Toolkit is designed to support the development of school, family and community partnerships with the ultimate goal of helping all children and youth succeed in school and in life." Its six modules are organized around six types of family and community involvement. Though created with New Mexico communities in mind, this resource's content may be useful with any school community.

A Parents' Guide to ESSA

This guide aims to help parents like you understand the flexibility provided to States and school districts in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA),
which amended the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, a landmark Federal education law. We know that parents are the most important advocates for their children. Because States and school districts have significant flexibility in how they meet the requirements of the law, you have an opportunity to influence
how they use that flexibility to best help your child. We hope that this document empowers you with information that will help you advocate for better education for your child and every child in your State and district and help you make the right choices for your family. Betsy DeVos -Secretary of Education

Handbook on Family and Community Engagement

Thirty-six of the best thinkers on family and community engagement were assembled to produce this Handbook. The authors tell what they know in plain language, succinctly presented in short chapters with practical suggestions for states, districts, and schools. The vignettes in the Handbook provide vivid pictures of the real life of parents, teachers, and kids.

The Dual Capacity-Building Framework for Family-School Partnerships

The U.S. Department of Education has developed a Family and Community Engagement Framework for families, schools, districts, states, and the broader communities to develop partnerships in education. This document describes strategies for building, cultivating, and sustaining positive relationships with families. The goal of these partnerships is to to build capacity for student achievement and school improvement.

Parent/Family Involvement Policy

The Every Student Succeed Act (ESSA) requires schools receiving Title I funds to develop policies addressing their parental involvement program. This document offers guidance and a model policy from the National PTA's National Standards for Parent/Family Involvement Program as a resource to assist schools in developing such a policy.

Helping Your Child

This link is to the U.S. Department of Education's Helping Your Child publication series. As noted at its website, "These booklets feature practical lessons and activities to help their school aged and preschool children master reading, understand the value of homework and develop the skills and values necessary to achieve and grow."

National Parent Teacher Association

As noted at its website, "As the largest volunteer child advocacy association in the nation, National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) provides parents and families with a voice to speak on behalf of every child. The PTA provides parents tools to help their children be successful students." Local parent/teacher organizations may be useful sources of financial and non-financial resources.

School Climate and Discipline

This link to the U.S. Department of Education website provides resources addressing school climate and discipline. As noted on the website, "The guidance package is a resource resulting from a collaborative project—the Supportive School Discipline Initiative (SSDI)—between ED and DOJ. The SSDI, launched in 2011, addresses the school-to-prison pipeline and the disciplinary policies and practices that can push students out of school and into the justice system. The initiative aims to support instead school discipline practices that foster safe, inclusive and positive learning environments while keeping students in school." 

The Department of Education news releases explains that the resource package consists of four components:

  • "the Dear Colleague guidance letter on civil rights and discipline, prepared in conjunction with DOJ, describes how schools can meet their legal obligations under federal law to administer student discipline without discriminating against students on the basis of race, color or national origin;

  • the Guiding Principles document draws from emerging research and best practices to describe three key principles and related action steps that can help guide state and local efforts to improve school climate and school discipline;

  • the Directory of Federal School Climate and Discipline Resources indexes the extensive federal technical assistance and other resources related to school discipline and climate available to schools and districts; and

  • the Compendium of School Discipline Laws and Regulations, an online catalogue of the laws and regulations related to school discipline in each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, compares laws across states and jurisdictions."

Writing to Linguistically Diverse Audiences

Writing effectively for an audience with a wide variety of backgrounds is difficult. This page provides several resources to help writers craft their message to reach the widest possible audience.

*NEW video* Creating Environments for Indigenous Youth to Live & Succeed

Indigenous youth experience the highest rates of negative instances such as suicide, yet are the fastest growing demographic in Canada. This has been at the heart of the of the work of Tunchai Redvers, co-founder of We Matter, a national non-profit organization committed to Indigenous youth empowerment, hope and life promotion. In this 2017 Tedx talk, Tunchai makes the case that changing this reality and creating environments for Indigenous youth to both live and succeed means centering Indigenous youth voices, honoring Indigenous strengths, and challenging toxic norms and beliefs. Tunchai Redvers is an Indigenous queer/two-spirit woman, social justice warrior, poet, and wanderer. With Dene and Métis roots, she comes from Treaty 8 territory, born and raised in the Northwest Territories.

Elements of Effective Family-School Partnerships

This webinar provides participants with a framework that identifies the elements of effective family-school partnerships. Participants explored four versions of family-school partnerships and assessed where their school community falls within the framework. The webinar explores various strategies to help schools move from basic levels of partnership to more effective and systemic family-school partnerships that support learning and school improvement.

Partnering with Diverse Community Members

This webinar explores the ways several schools have successfully cultivated and sustained partnerships with diverse families and community members. Our schools and districts throughout the country are experiencing dramatic shifts in demographics, and this diversity brings rich resources, but this can also be a source of misunderstanding and conflict among school staff, families, and other community stakeholders.  The webinar focuses directly on the topic of diversity and offered tools and guidance to develop rich partnerships with diverse families and community members. The session featured school and district strategies to address and embrace diversity in ways that enable partnerships among home, school, and community.

Systemic Family Engagement

The purpose of this webinar is to define and demonstrate in detail what is meant by “systemic” family engagement. The webinar features “promising practice” district initiatives that spans several schools, that are linked to student learning, and engage community partners.

The Why and What of Family Engagement

The purpose of this webinar was to explore current research-based definitions of family engagement and what we now know about the impact of family engagement on student achievement and whole school reform.  The webinar explores  the meaning of "family engagement", the various was families are involved in their children's education, the impact of these various engagements in their children's edcuation.

*NEW* Native American Student Achievement Linked to Parental Involvement

This 2011 Indian Country Today article explores how Native American student achievement is linked to parental involvement. Native American parents may be able to help improve Native students statistics. The recommendations part of the report points to parental involvement leading to student success. The 2008 "Striving to Achieve: Helping Native American Students Succeed", analyzed 33 Montana schools and found the factor most correlated with student success was the “school’s effort to engage parents, families and communities in the school, outweighing even school leadership, teacher quality and curriculum.”  The reports says schools and communities have to work together because when the community doesn’t see the value of education, students won’t see school as important.  “This goes beyond the scope of being a part of the PTA and sending students off to school,”

*NEW* Parent Involvement: NAYA (Native American Youth and Family Center

Parent Involvement is the key for student success.  Our Parent Involvement Advocate meets with parents and families regularly to build measurable goals that will lead to greater communication and cooperation at home, as well as overall greater involvement within their children’s schools.  The program helps parents to develop skills utilizing the Parents Helping Parents curriculum.

Working with American Indian Students and Families

This report focuses on the disabilities, issues and interventions as challenges found when teaching American Indian students.  The majority of American Indian students attend public schools, and they often live with a sense of dissonance because the culture of their school is different than the culture of their home and tribal communities.  Educators much understand that the belief system of American Indians differs significantly from the world-view of mainstream U.S. society. For example, living in harmony with nature is a vastly different from the mainstream U.S. concept and belief in individualism, which is taught in public educational systems.

Element 4: Integrate American Indian History, Language, and Culture into School Curriculum

Purpose: Research indicates that it is important to affirm students’ identity and one reason for the academic achievement gap that American Indian students face is that a one-size-fits-all national curriculum represented in textbooks fails to give positive recognition to American Indian histories and cultures. 

Activity 1: Create an American Indian Curriculum

It is important for American Indian and Alaska Native students to have the standard state and national curriculums they are exposed to in school be supplemented with curriculum that reflects their background and the community that they live in.

Activity 2: Teaching Indigenous Languages

Too often, an English-only policy in American schools has suppressed American Indian languages and cultures. The Native American Languages Act passed by U.S. Congress, and signed by President George H. W. Bush in 1990, enforces United States Policy to support, preserve, and protect American Indian languages. Esther Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act  Act of 2006 The 2007 United Nation’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has given further support to that goal. Today, Indigenous peoples are working through Indigenous language immersion schools to revitalize their languages and cultures.


Element 5: Explore Schools Serving American Indian Students

Purpose: Charter and immersion schools are offering American Indians more flexibility in working to improve the education of their children by affording American Indian communities more power to shape the schooling their children receive.


Activity 1: The Role and impact of American Indian Charter and Magnet Schools

Learn about charter and immersion schools and how they can provide alternatives to public, Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) schools, and tribally controlled schools, allowing American Indian communities to provide more culturally appropriate education for their children.


Activity 2: Discover how Tribal Operated Schools and Indian Charter Schools Relate to One Another

The Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) and mainstream public schools have not been successful in bringing up the average test scores and graduation rates of American Indian students to national averages. Learn how Tribally Operated and Indian Charter Schools are providing alternatives that show promise in improving the academic and life success of American Indian students.


Element 6: Use Culturally Responsive Teaching Methodologies

Purpose: Research suggests one reason for the achievement gap faced by American Indian students is cultural conflicts between American Indian homes and schools. Accordingly, teachers should be prepared to meet the needs of American Indian and other Indigenous students, including using culturally responsive teaching methodologies that incorporate American Indian learning styles, avoiding biased teaching and stereotypes, and addressing the needs of gifted education and other special needs students.

Activity 1: Prepare Educators to Teach American Indian Students

One-size-fits-all educational reforms, despite being somewhat “evidence based”, have left behind many American Indian students. Learn how adjusting teaching methods and materials to fit American Indian students’ cultural and experiential backgrounds can make them more engaged learners and improve their academic performance.