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Blueprint for Reform Implementation


The Bureau of Indian Education conducted six national tribal consultations throughout the United States. At each of these consultations, BIE gathered the input of tribal leadership on the organizational design recommended by the BIE's Blueprint for Reform. The purpose of each session focused on the following:

The proposed reorganization based on the Secretarial Order 3334 which calls for the restructuring of the BIE into an innovative organization that will improve operations for both tribally-controlled and BIE-operated schools.

The proposed changes have two primary objectives: 1) strengthen BIE's capability to address school operating needs; and 2) provide greater oversight and improved service delivery to BIE operated and tribally controlled schools.

A comprehensive overview of the national, regional and individual tribal consultations along with consultation transcripts can be found on the BIA Tribal Consultation webpage.



Nearly half of Native American people are under the age of 24; more than one-third of Native children live in poverty; and Native youth have the lowest high school graduation rate of students across all schools. Nationally, the American Indian/Alaskan Native high school graduation rate is 69 percent, far below the national average of 81 percent -- but the situation for the eight percent of Native students attending Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) schools is much worse with an average graduation rate of 53 percent.

Failing schools, crumbling infrastructure, failure to include tribal nations in the decision-making process and lack of access to broadband and teachers and principals shortages contribute to the urgency of the situation.

Gen-I, born from President Obama's historic trip to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, represents the President's commitment to break the cycle of poverty for Native youth, including his efforts to transform the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE). The Obama Administration, Tribal Leaders, and Members of Congress are working to find solutions which include nearly a billion dollar investment proposed in the 2016 budget to dramatically transform the BIE. While additional investment is key, we must also partner with tribal leaders. After countless consultations and listening sessions, we now understand why our schools have been failing -- tribal nations haven't had a seat at the table. The sad reality is that tribal governments often have little say in how schools located on their own reservations are run even though they are the ones who know their children best.

Why is it important to make changes within the BIE? To effect real change in BIE-funded schools, the BIE organization must change how it delivers services to schools. The current administrative structure is a relic of the past when all BIE schools and dormitories were directly operated by the federal government and oriented towards "command and control" of its own schools. Today, the federal government no longer operates the majority of BIE schools; rather, tribal nations or locally controlled school boards directly manage 68 percent of BIE-funded schools. The BIE's administrative structure, however, never evolved to meet this new reality. The proposed reorganization will modernize the BIE and help it take a critical step towards becoming a school improvement organization rather than a direct operator of schools. After extensive consultations, the BIE proposes important organizational changes which are essential to improve outcomes for Native American youth.

What needs to change? The BIE proposes to modernize its administrative structure by realigning staff and functions across the organization at both the field and headquarters levels to reflect the reality that most BIE-funded schools are no longer directly operated by the federal government. These changes will clarify roles and responsibilities within BIE, address long-recognized deficiencies to deliver better service and program assistance, and build an organization better able to improve program management and academic outcomes.

What changes are proposed? The elements of the proposed reorganization are described below followed by copies of the current and proposed organizational charts. This proposal makes basic, commonsense changes to BIE's organizational structure, building its capacity to better support schools that will strengthen how BIE delivers education to students through a new organizational structure that:

  • Improves service by meeting the different needs of federally operated schools and grant schools -- The current BIE field structure is organized by geography and does not address the reality that 68 percent of BIE schools are now operated by tribal nations, or locally controlled school boards. The field structure would change to address geographic proximity and realign to better meet the unique needs of tribally controlled BIE grant schools and federally operated BIE schools. BIE made this change in response to criticisms from tribal leaders that BIE provided a "one-size-fits-all" approach to technical assistance. This change will enable the BIE to provide each of its schools with customized service.
  • Puts resources and support closer to schools -- The BIE proposes to realign, resource, and rename the Education Line Offices to become Education Resource Centers (ERCs) with a clear focus on providing service as opposed to mandates. As recommended by the GAO in a September 2013 report, several of these ERCs will be relocated to "regions with large numbers of BIE schools". Relocating these offices will enable support staff to learn about the unique needs of these communities rather than trying to provide service from centralized locations such as Albuquerque or Washington, DC. These ERCs will specialize in providing service to either grant or federally operated schools. The ERCs will have school improvement specialists focused on improving academic outcomes. They will also have staff funded by the U.S. Department of Education on-site to better provide technical assistance and answer questions related to Department of Education program requirements.
  • Clearly define responsibilities to provide expert service -- Currently, staff at the Education Line Offices lack specialization and expertise because they must address questions regarding instruction and operations. Essentially, as position descriptions are currently written, they must serve as a "jack of all trades". The proposal will allow BIE to redefine roles and responsibilities so that staff can be experts in a particular area and therefore provide better service. Current staff will receive more specialized training to increase their effectiveness in supporting student achievement.
  • Establishes clear reporting and accountability within BIE to promote efficiency and accountability within the BIE -- The reorganization will improve BIE's efficiency and accountability within the BIE. A Chief Academic Officer (a new position) reporting to the BIE Director will have a clear reporting relationship with the school improvement specialists at the ERCs. A Chief Performance Officer (also a new position) within the School Operations Division will have a clear line of authority to program administrators and grants management specialists at the ERCs. Administrative functions supporting the schools will be consolidated within the School Operations Division.
  • Builds the capacity of tribal nations -- BIE will have a central point within the organization for the important cross-cutting services they provide to tribal nations outside of school operations -- including Johnson O'Malley, early childhood education including Family and Childhood Education programs, Sovereignty in Indian Education Enhancement activities, and the Tribal Education Department grants program. The proposed Office of Sovereignty in Indian Education will help to institutionalize current efforts to build the capacity of tribal nations seeking to operate BIE-funded schools located on their reservations.

Examples of How the Reprogramming Improves Services:

  • A principal working at a BIE-funded school in South Dakota will no longer have to travel hundreds or thousands of miles to Albuquerque to receive basic professional development. Instead, a principal will be able to travel to an Education Resource Center located in their region. Similarly, a school improvement specialist located in Albuquerque will no longer have to spend two days traveling to visit schools located in Mississippi or Washington State.
  • A principal will no longer have to manage duplicative requests from regional Education Line Officers (ELO) and from staff in the Division of Performance and Accountability (DPA) in Albuquerque because ELO and DPA staff will now be co-located in the same Education Resource Centers. This will improve coordination and reduce reporting burdens on schools.
  • Administrators will no longer be forced to navigate exceptionally tricky data accountability requirements on their own with only a faceless voice on the phone for guidance; they can have a living, breathing person in a nearby regional office to provide technical assistance.
  • Administrators will no longer have to be trained as both a superintendent of a local educational agency and state educational agency; rather, have a clear understanding of what their roles and responsibilities are rather than having to be "jacks of all trades" for federal and grant schools.
  • A student will benefit from educational resources that adequately meet his or her needs due to the increased quality of data analysis facilitated by a closer relationship between BIE's Data Unit and the Department of Education.
  • The Director of a Tribal Education Department will no longer have to navigate the BIE bureaucracy to obtain support and technical assistance. Rather, the new Sovereignty in Indian Education Office will become the one-stop shop that will meet the Director's needs.


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