Bureau of Indian Education Joins WIDA Consortium on English-Learners

By Corey Mitchell — September 29, 2016 1 min read
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The Bureau of Indian Education has joined the WIDA Consortium, a group of education agencies that share common-core aligned English-language proficiency standards and assessments for English-language learners.

Currently, BIE schools are spread across states that belong to WIDA, the World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment consortium, or the other multistate group, ELPA 21, the English Language Proficiency Assessment for the 21st Century.

The Bureau of Indian Education serves approximately 41,000 American Indian and Alaska Native children on 64 reservations in 23 states. Joining WIDA allows BIE educators to home in on one set of exams and standards.

Students at some Bureau of Indian Education schools have taken WIDA’s English-language-proficiency tests, ACCESS and ACCESS 2.0, for years now, said Jesse Markow, chief strategy officer for the WIDA Consortium. Test-taking for schools in non-WIDA states will be gradually phased in, he said. With the addition of the BIE, 39 education agencies now belong to WIDA.

It’s unclear how many of the BIE students are classified as English-learners.

“The law [Title III of the Every Student Succeeds Act] that defines what an English-learner is or who might be considered an English-learner allows for lots of different experiences to qualify a student,” Markow said.

While the numbers of Native American English-learners remains an enigma, one thing is certain: The federal government has begun to devote more time and resources to the student population in recent years.

The U.S. Department of Education this month announced plans award nearly $3 million in grants to support Native-American students who are identified as English-learners. The department granted the funds to schools and tribes in eight states to develop the English proficiency of the students while also promoting the preservation of their native languages.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.