Obama administration approves first waiver for tribal school

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration for the first time on Monday granted an Indian tribe’s school flexibility from some of the requirements of the No Child Left Behind education law.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said they’re hopeful the waiver becomes a model for other tribes around the county.

The waiver will allow the Miccosukee Indian School in South Florida, which has 150 students, to have its own standard for measuring yearly progress, one that is different from the state’s. As part of the waiver agreement, the school has committed to cutting by half the percentage of students deemed not proficient in reading and mathematics.

Duncan said during a signing ceremony Monday that the Miccosukee’s school will have more freedom to emphasize the tribe’s culture and language, and the school’s standards in some cases will exceed state requirements.

“Having a real commitment to language and culture, I am convinced in my heart and bones, will help students be more successful in English and language arts, in reading, in math and science,” Duncan said.

The administration has already granted waivers to most states because meeting the targets set by No Child Left Behind proved unworkable.

Colley Billie, the tribe’s chairman, said the school will use the Florida Everglades as a laboratory to emphasize science. He also said the school will ensure students maintain a sense of identity with the tribe.

“It is the upmost importance to our community that our language and culture continue to thrive with future generations,” Billie said during a signing ceremony at the Department of Interior.