How do we improve the educational environment for Native students?

Impacting educational experiences with the National Comprehensive Center’s Native Education Collaborative


Across the U.S., Native students face opportunity gaps as a result of structural and institutional barriers that impact their educational experiences and trajectories. Opportunity gaps exist for many reasons, including

  • Ineffective curriculum and instruction
  • Deficient social and emotional supports
  • Inadequate educator preparation and training
  • Lack of programs focused on college and career readiness
  • Absence of meaningful partnerships between organizations, such as state education agencies (SEAs), local education agencies (LEAs), and tribal education agencies (TEAs)

The National Comprehensive Center, in a cooperative agreement between the U.S. Department of Education and Westat, works with states and Regional Centers to enhance the quality of instruction, close achievement gaps, and improve educational outcomes for all students. To this end, we deliver high-quality universal and targeted capacity-building services and products, and work with key education stakeholders to leverage expertise and resources and, ultimately, maximize results. The National Center was tapped to develop the Native Education Collaborative to help improve education for American Indian/Alaska Native students.


To build the capacity of SEAs to better serve Native students, Westat first conducted interviews with leading experts on Native education and reviewed relevant literature to better understand the needs of SEAs, LEAs, TEAs, and tribal communities.

Informed by the interviews and literature, the team

  • Developed and disseminated resources (see the Native Education Collaborative web page).
  • Created Circles of Reflection, a self-reflection process. It focuses on 6 categories of support, including the role of tribal consultation while SEAs and LEAs prepare and submit plans or applications for federal programs, as required in the Every Student Succeeds Act.

The effort piloted Circles of Reflection with 4 SEAs, in collaboration with TEAs and LEAs, to

  • Inventory and describe their current work on Native education
  • Understand ways in which the work might be supported or enhanced
  • Develop a plan on how to positively impact Native education

The project includes a continuous feedback loop rooted in process evaluation that ensures that participants help shape the direction of the project.


The Native Education Collaborative will impact the learning lives of American Indian/Alaska Native children and youth by building the capacity of SEAs to better serve their Native students.

We will provide universal and targeted resources to enhance the effectiveness of SEAs to more comprehensively support Native education, including helping SEAs to better collaborate with LEAs and TEAs, including more broadly local tribal communities.


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