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Taking STEPs to Improve Educational Opportunities for Native American and Alaska Native Students

The Obama Administration announces another step towards preparing the next generation of Native American students for success with the launch of the “State-Tribal Education Partnership” – or STEP – pilot program.

Building strong, prosperous Native American communities is a priority for President Obama and his Administration. This commitment is reflected by a strong record of accomplishments that arise out of meaningful consultation with Indian Country.  In these consultations, tribal leaders have stressed the importance of greater tribal control over the education of Native American students.  In response, the Obama Administration has already proposed changes to enhance the role of tribes in the education of their youth and to provide greater flexibility in the use of federal funds to meet the unique needs of Native American students.  Also, as demonstrated by President Obama’s Executive Order on Improving American Indian and Alaska Native Educational Opportunities and Strengthening Tribal Colleges and Universities, we continue to work to improve the programs available at tribal colleges so that Native American students are well prepared to compete for the high-skilled, quality jobs of today and tomorrow.

Last week, the Administration announced another step towards preparing the next generation of Native American students for success with the launch of the “State-Tribal Education Partnership” – or STEP – pilot program. The STEP program will award nearly $2 million in competitive grants to tribal education agencies to increase their role in the education of American Indian and Alaska Native students.

In particular, the STEP program will:

  • Promote increased collaboration between tribal education agencies  and State educational agencies in the administration of several State-administered formula grant programs; and
  • Build the capacity of tribal education agencies to conduct certain State-level administrative functions for schools located on the tribe’s reservation.

Through these collaborative agreements, tribal education agencies will develop their capacity as they take on increased roles in educating students on tribal lands, and State education agencies will increase their knowledge of the unique needs of American Indian and Alaska Native students to improve educational outcomes for these students.

Though the economic challenges of Indian Country are significant, investing in education is key to unlocking economic growth on reservations. President Obama is committed to achieving a brighter future with tribes by identifying and developing initiatives, like the STEP program, that will help break the generational history of unemployment across tribal nations. 

Our commitment strengthening the government-to-government relationship is the foundation upon which we will build stronger tribal communities together. The Administration will continue to propose concrete solutions to assist Indian country with addressing the unique needs and challenges facing Native American communities.

For more information on the STEP pilot program, please visit:

Jodi Gillette is Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs and Roberto Rodriguez is Special Assistant to the President for Education.