Naomi Schaefer Riley: Hold tribal leaders accountable for schools

Students at the Wolf Creek School on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Photo from Department of Education / Twitter

Naomi Schaefer Riley, the author of a forthcoming book titled The New Trail of Tears: How Washington Is Destroying American Indians, argues that holding tribes accountable will improve educational outcomes for Indian children:
A few days ago, Education Secretary John King announced a federal grant of $100,000 to the Crazy Horse School of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. “This grant,” Mr. King said at the tribe’s Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, “will help Oglala educators strengthen the learning environment so that all students can reach their full potential.”

With all due respect, more money won’t help these children. Bringing accountability to their broken education system, however, could actually make a difference.

About 11% of South Dakota’s public-school students are Native American, the highest proportion of any state, according to a 2013 report in Education Week. The same analysis noted that while 42% of Native American students scored “proficient” or “advanced” on the state’s math exams, 80% of white students did. Test results for reading were similar: 47% and 79%.

Why the massive achievement gap? At Pine Ridge, the education system fails because of nepotism and a lack of accountability. Private schools are rare and subject to unfair treatment. South Dakota is one of a handful of states without a charter-school law. And it doesn’t help that unemployment on the reservation hovers above 80%.

Get the Story:
Naomi Schaefer Riley: Changing an NFL Team’s Name Won’t Fix Indian Schools (The Wall Street Journal 5/20)

Inspector General Reports:
Investigation of Improper Hiring at the Bureau of Indian Education (March 30, 2016)
Investigative Report of Brian Drapeaux (December 2, 2014)

Government Accountability Office Reports:
Key Actions Needed to Ensure Safety and Health at Indian School Facilities (March 10, 2016)
Further Actions on GAO Recommendations Needed to Address Systemic Management Challenges with Indian Education (April 22, 2015)
Bureau of Indian Education Needs to Improve Oversight of School Spending (November 13, 2014)

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