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National Indian Education StudyAbout the Survey


The National Indian Education (NIES) survey explores the educational experiences of the American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) students participating in the NAEP assessments. Throughout the survey, questions were included to examine the extent to which AI/AN students were exposed to Native language and culture in their everyday lives and at school. The survey was given to

  • grade 4 and grade 8 students,
  • reading/language arts and mathematics teachers of the participating students at each grade level, and
  • administrators of the schools from which the students were selected.

The NIES Technical Review Panel (TRP), whose members included American Indian and Alaska Native educators and researchers from across the country, oversaw the development of the questionnaires, which included multiple-choice questions and a space at the end for respondents to write in comments. 

Although questionnaire results are available from 2005 and 2007, results from prior years are not directly comparable to 2009, 2011, and 2015 because the wording of many questions has changed.

About 8,500 AI/AN students from approximately 1,600 schools at grade 4 and about 8,200 AI/AN students from approximately 1,500 schools at grade 8 participated in the 2015 NIES survey. Also responding to the survey were about 1,900 teachers and 1,600 school administrators at grade 4 and about 2,400 teachers and 1,500 school administrators at grade 8.

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How Results Are Reported

The survey report presents findings from the three types of NIES questionnaires:

  • The student questionnaires asked AI/AN students about themselves, their families and communities, and their classrooms and schools.
  • The teacher questionnaires asked about the integration of Native culture and language into instruction, the use of content standards and assessments to promote academic achievement, and the use of different types of resources.
  • School administrators responded to questions about how schools respond to the distinctive needs of their AI/AN students. The questions asked about the presence of AI/AN teachers and staff in the school, areas of instruction in AI/AN culture, how schools connect with AI/AN communities, and community involvement in school activities.

The 2015 reports describe the results for AI/AN students attending high density public schools (those in which at least 25 percent of the students are AI/AN), for AI/AN students attending low density public schools (those in which less than 25 percent of the students are AI/AN), and for AI/AN students attending Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) schools.

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Survey Sample

The NIES survey sample was designed to produce information representative of the target population of all fourth- and eighth-grade AI/AN students in the United States in different types of schools—public, Bureau of Indian Education (BIE), Department of Defense, and private. The sample selection for NIES took place in conjunction with the sampling activities for the 2015 NAEP assessments at grades 4 and 8.

To maximize student sample sizes, all fourth- and eighth-grade AI/AN students in the sampled schools were selected for participation in the NIES survey. This means that, in addition to all fourth- and eighth-grade AI/AN students who were assessed in reading or mathematics and whose results are reported in the NIES performance report, fourth- and eighth-grade AI/AN students in the sampled schools who participated in the NAEP science assessment were also selected to participate in the NIES survey. Including the students assessed in science increased the NIES survey sample by roughly 800 AI/AN students at grade 4 and 1,000 AI/AN students at grade 8 without having to sample additional schools. Nonetheless, the NIES questionnaires were designed to collect information about AI/AN students’ experiences in reading/language arts and mathematics, not science. Therefore, all students participating in the NIES survey completed the same questionnaire regardless of the NAEP subject area in which they were assessed. Furthermore, questionnaires were administered to participating students’ reading/language arts and mathematics teachers to collect information specific to instructional practices in those subject areas. There was no separate questionnaire administered to science teachers.

The NIES survey sample, which was drawn from the subsample of schools with AI/AN students, included about 8,500 AI/AN students at approximately 1,590 schools at grade 4, and 8,200 AI/AN students at 1,480 schools at grade 8 located throughout the United States. At grade 4, the sample consisted of approximately 90 percent public and Department of Defense schools, 8 percent BIE schools, and 2 percent private schools. At grade 8, the sample consisted of approximately 90 percent public and Department of Defense schools, 6 percent BIE schools, and 3 percent private schools. Also responding to the survey were about 1,900 grade 4 teachers, 2,400 grade 8 teachers, 1,200 grade 4 school administrators, and 1,100 grade 8 school administrators associated with these students. Some school administrators responded for both grade 4 and grade 8.

The NIES survey was designed to obtain a sample that was not only representative of all U.S. AI/AN students at grades 4 and 8, but would also allow comparisons between AI/AN students attending BIE schools and high density public and low density public schools, where density is defined as the proportion of AI/AN students enrolled. The sample included 160 high density public schools for fourth grade, 150 high density public schools for eighth grade, 1,460 low density public schools for fourth grade, and 1,370 low density public schools for eighth grade. As in 2011, the 2015 sample design allows the NIES survey data to be linked to the achievement data collected using the NAEP Data Explorer. However, achievement results in NAEP reading and mathematics could not be reported in 2015 for fourth-grade students attending BIE schools because participation rates did not meet reporting criteria.

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Data Collection

NIES representatives (National Center for Education Statistics data collection contractor staff) visited the schools in January through March of 2015 to administer the NIES survey questionnaires. Students completed the questionnaires proctored by the study representatives. The questions were read out loud to all students at grades 4 and 8 who needed assistance. In addition, the study representatives were available to answer any questions that students had as they worked on the questionnaires.

For both NIES and NAEP, teachers and school administrators were asked to complete the questionnaires on their own, either prior to or during the visit from the study representative.

The results gathered from the survey provide a snapshot of the cultural and educational experiences of AI/AN students.

Download a copy of the National Indian Education Study: 2015.

Download a copy of the National Indian Education Study 2015: Closer Look.

Last updated 02 May 2019 (FW)