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A STEP in the Right Direction for Tribal Education

Jun 5

Written by: Grants Office, LLC
Tuesday, June 5, 2012  RssIcon

By Ali Palmieri

June 2012

With the funding landscape diminished across all sectors, it is refreshing to see a new program open up, especially a program focusing on Indian Education at the state level. The Department of Education introduced, on May 29, a pilot program called State-Tribal Education Partnership (STEP). Tribal education agencies (TEAs) will be able to apply for $1.9 million in competitive grants.

Secretary Arne Duncan posted a video formally introducing the program, stating he visited tribal communities. Among the problems he saw, he felt that the children of these tribal communities are very motivated and need an education that will prepare them for success.  One of the main purposes of STEP is for the TEAs to increase their role in American Indian and Alaskan native students' education. The role of TEAs will be elevated to be more impactful in the education spectrum. STEP will "encourage TEAs to enter in to collaborative agreements with SEAs to perform state level functions for certain ESEA former grant programs within schools located on tribally controlled lands."

Secretary Duncan also stated that this is "groundbreaking work." It is certainly true and if you look into the past, a collaboration like this has never occurred. Programs that have been effective in advancing tribal education are Tribal Colleges Research Grants Program (TCRGP), Tribal Colleges and University Programs (TCUP) and American Indian Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities (TCCU) (Title III, Part A). Although these programs have been important in shaping the tribal education spectrum, they do not focus on the state level and secondary side of education like STEP will.

Capacity-Building and Technical assistance are expected to be a main component of this pilot program. “Capacity-building activities” are activities increasing the capacity of: (1) TEA to carry out State-level responsibilities under the affected ESEA programs; (2) TEA and SEA to work together effectively on meeting the objectives of this pilot program; and (3) SEA to understand the unique cultural and academic needs of the students enrolled in participating schools and how to address them more effectively.  It is expected that capacity-building occurs through the provision of technical assistance, meaning activities that allow the recipient to effectively perform certain tasks or functions.

The timeframe for this grant is a notice of intent to apply for June 12, 2012 and the actual deadline is July 13, 2012. it is anticipated there will be 3-5 awards with an estimated average of $450,000 for a single TEA in partnership with a single SEA or $600,000 for a consortium of TEAs in partnership with a single SEA.

To learn more, pre-application webinars have been scheduled for June 1 and June 5, 2012 from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. Washington, DC time each day. To participate in the webinar please send an email to: with "Webinar" in the subject line. The program contact is Joyce A. Silverthorne, 202-260-3774,


Categories: Education
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