Education | National

Miccosukee Tribe secures first NCLB waiver in Indian Country

Miccosukee Tribe Chairman Colley Billie speaks at the Interior Department in Washington, D.C. Photo by Andrew Bahl for Indianz.Com

A milestone for Indian education and youth
By Andrew Bahl
Indianz.Com Staff Writer

The Miccosukee Indian School in Florida became the first in Indian Country to be granted a waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act on Monday, joining over 40 states that have already been exempted from a law labeled as "broken" by the Obama administration.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell joined representatives from the Miccosukee Tribe at the Interior Department in Washington, D.C., to announce the "historic flexibility" waiver. It's part of the administration’s Generation Indigenous initiative to improve Indian education and outcomes for Indian youth.

"This is a historic day," Jewell said at the ceremony. "This is all about tribal self-governance, self-determination, and it starts with making sure the people who care most deeply about these children are the people that are making decisions for them."

Indianz.Com SoundCloud: Miccosukee Indian School Announcement

The waiver allows the school to define its own adequate yearly progress benchmarks, as well as continue efforts to integrate tribal culture and language into the curriculum. The school plans to double proficiency in key subject areas over the next six years.

"I’m pleased the Miccosukee crossed this threshold and prove that culture can be combined with a curriculum to provide positive outcomes for students," Miccosukee Chairman Colley Billie said.

The Miccosukee Indian School serves roughly 150 students in the Miami area. Principal Manuel Varela, welcomed the waiver as a relief from provisions that are burdensome for the small school. He said officials, teachers and students will be adhering to standards that are higher than those mandated by the state of Florida.

LiveStream: Native Youth Education Announcement

"Our standards are as high as or higher than other systems," Varela told reporters. "We have 150 students so a shift of a few students can affect [whether or not the school meets NCLB proficiency]."

Duncan touted the effort as a "fantastic partnership" between the federal government and Indian Country and hoped to grant waivers to other tribes. The Bureau of Indian Education had been asking for a waiver since 2012.

From left to right: Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, Miccosukee Indian School Principal Manuel Varela, Miccosukee Chairman Colley Billie and Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Photo by Andrew Bahl for Indianz.Com

"We are in talks with other tribes and we hope this isn’t our last announcement," Duncan said.

Relevant Documents:
Waiver Letter to Miccosukee Tribe (May 27, 2015)
Press Release: Miccosukee Indian School Receives Historic Flexibility to Meet Academic and Cultural Needs of Students (DOI June 1, 2015)

Twitter Recap:

Additional Coverage:
Chairman Of Miccosukee Indian Tribe Colley Billie Praises U.S. Dept. Of Ed For Granting Waiver Of NCLB Law (iSchoolGuide 6/1)
Tribal school wins its own waiver from No Child Left Behind (The Washington Post 6/1)
Tribal School Gains 'Historic' Waiver From No Child Left Behind Rules (The Huffington Post 6/2)
Education Department Grants One-of-a-Kind NCLB Leeway to Tribal School (Education Week 6/1)
Obama administration grants No Child Left Behind waiver to Florida tribe (AP 6/1)

Related Stories:
Miccosukee Tribe joins Native youth announcement at DOI in DC (5/29)

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