Published Online: December 4, 2013

Education in Indian Country: Obstacles and Opportunity

On most measures of educational success, Native American students trail every other racial and ethnic subgroup of students. To explore the reasons why, Education Week sent a writer, a photographer, and a videographer to American Indian reservations in South Dakota and California earlier this fall. Their work is featured in this special package of articles, photographs, and multimedia. Commentary essays offer additional perspectives.

Running in Place

Like many Native American students, Legend Tell Tobacco, a 10-year-old on the Pine Ridge reservation, must outrun the odds against his educational success.

Read Story

Betting on a School

Read Story Morongo students learn their own culture.

Federal Cuts Take a Toll on Native Americans' Schools

Read Story Sequestration's impact is disproportionate.

Video: A Long Road Back to the 'Rez'

Watch Video Education remains a yet-to-be fulfilled promise for moving families out of poverty on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

American Indian Students Lose Ground

See Data An analysis of student data by the EPE Research Center.

A History of American Indian Education

Trace key moments in the history of American Indian education.

See Timeline

Native Americans: A Statistical Profile

Number of federally recognized tribes: 566
Population: American Indians and Alaska Natives make up 1.7 percent of the U.S. population—some 5.2 million people.
States with the largest populations of American Indians and Alaska Natives collectively: California, Oklahoma, and Arizona
Public school enrollment: Just over 600,000 Native students, or 1.1 percent of the nation's total pre-K-12 enrollment, attend public schools nationwide; that includes nearly 42,000 students in federal Bureau of Indian Education, or BIE, schools.
Number of BIE schools: 183, some directly operated by the federal agency and others tribally run under contract
Private school enrollment: Some 22,000 Native students attend private schools, making up 0.5 percent of private school enrollment nationally.

Opinions From a Native Perspective

Low rates of high school graduation, among other grim educational outcomes, weigh on Indian Country today. In spite of their deep concerns, many Native leaders see a direction for how to improve student achievement and academic prosperity, including through the preservation of tribal cultures and languages.

Education Week Commentary editors partnered with the National Indian Education Association to invite Native leaders to discuss such issues—the collection follows below. Artist Brent Greenwood (Chickasaw/Ponca) contributed illustrations.

CommentaryUpending an Education Crisis in Indian Country

Early education is a critical step to bridging the achievement gap between Native and non-Native students, writes Jefferson Keel the lieutenant governor of the Chickasaw Nation.

CommentaryTitle VII: A Path to Education Equity

By bringing the local culture of Native students into the public schools they attend, Title VII has been one of the most important programs for reforming education in Indian Country, writes Corey Still, a student board member of the National Indian Education Association.

CommentaryCommon Core From a Tribal Perspective

Leaders of the Pueblo of Jemez have adapted the common-core standards to make them more culturally appropriate and educationally effective in their community, writes Kevin Shendo, the pueblo's education director.

CommentaryA Crucial Investment in Indian Higher Ed.

More needs to be done to prepare American Indian students to attend and succeed in college, Fort Lewis College Provost Barbara Morris writes.