Indian Education-National Activities

Office of Indian Education




The National Activities authority funds research, evaluation, and data collection to provide information on the education status of the Indian population and on the effectiveness of Indian education programs. This authority enables the Department to improve the national knowledge base on the education status and needs of Indians and to identify and disseminate information on best practices for serving this population.

Types of Projects

The Department uses these funds, primarily through contracts, to support research, evaluation, and data collection on the status and effectiveness of Indian education programs, and for other activities to improve programs that serve American Indians and Alaska Natives, age preschool through adult.

National Indian Education Study (NIES)

The NIES 2019 Report is now available. 

The goal of the study is to describe the condition of education of American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) students by focusing on both their academic performance and educational experiences in grades 4 and 8. This activity is part of a collaborative effort among Indian tribes and organizations, the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE), and state and local education agencies toward meeting the challenging academic standards set forth in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, reauthorized in 2015 as the Every Student Succeeds Act.

The NIES helps to provide a more complete picture of the status of education for American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) students in the United States.  The last two studies were conducted in 2019 and 2015.

Members of the NIES Technical Review Panel (TRP) also authored a companion document to the 2019 NIES Report Setting the Context which provides overarching recommendations and a perspective of how NIES fits in the larger sphere of education for AI/AN Students.

Visit the NIES web page

Video: Introduction to the NIES

Who Participated in the NIES?

In 2019, 4,100 AI/AN fourth-graders and 3,700 AI/AN eight-graders participated in the NAEP reading assessment, and 4,000 AI/AN fourth-graders and 3,800 AI/AN eighth-graders participated in the NAEP mathematics assessment. About 7,000 AI/AN students from approximately 1,400 schools at grade 4 and about 6,300 AI/AN students from approximately 1,300 schools at grade 8 participated in the 2019 NIES survey. In 2019, Nebraska was added, raising the number of NIES states to 15.

2019 NIES

The 2019 NIES found that:

  • Between 20-29 percent of AI/AN students are very interested in reading about cultures;
  • The majority of AI/AN students have access to school resources such as books and other media about AI/AN people;
  • Most AI/AN students reported have at least “a little” cultural knowledge, with 17 percent of fourth-graders and 18 percent of eighth-graders reporting that they know “nothing”;
  • About one-quarter of all AI/AN fourth- and eighth-graders reported never being taught about an AI/AN language;
  • The majority of teachers reported integrating cultural materials into reading/language arts lessons at least once a year.

2015 NIES

Based on the 2015 NIES – A Closer Look publication (released in May 2019), composite results found that:

  • Between 25–30 percent of AI/AN students are very interested in reading about cultures;
  • AI/AN students are engaged in their schoolwork;
  • AI/AN eighth-graders expect their academic efforts to positively affect their future;
  • About one-half of AI/AN students reported never being exposed to their Native languages; and
  • Sixteen percent of AI/AN eighth-graders report having a lot of cultural knowledge.

Further analysis of these composites found that

  • AI/AN fourth-graders who indicated they were exposed to their Native languages “often” were more likely to express a high level of interest in reading about cultures compared to their peers who said they were exposed to their Native languages to a lesser degree.
  • Conversely, AI/AN fourth-graders who reported “never” being exposed to their Native languages were more likely to express a low level of interest in reading about cultures.

In conjunction with the release of the 2015 NIES – A Closer Look publication, the NIES TRP also authored a Setting the Context document.