State Tribal Education Partnership (STEP) Project


Nez Perce Tribe
P.O. Box 365
Lapwai, ID 83540
FAX: (208) 843-7387


Joyce McFarland, Education Manager
Phone: (208) 621-4610, Email:
Alicia Wheeler, Technical Assistance Coach
Phone: (208) 621-4703, Email:
Diane Yellowrobe, Administrative Specialist II
Phone (208) 621-4755, Email:
Tess Woodward, Family Engagement Specialist
Phone (208) 621-4704, Email:

Idaho Department of Education:
Karen Seay, Director, Federal Programs Director
P.O. Box 83720, 650 West State Street, Boise, Idaho 83720-0027
Phone: (208) 332-6978, Email:


Our central theme is that “There is a Difference between Teaching Culture and Teaching Culturally.” The Nez Perce State Tribal Education Partnership (STEP) project focuses on strategies to meet the unique educational and cultural needs of American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) students as a way to improve their academic achievement.

 Defining what is 'culturally-relevant' education for today's tribal K-12 students will be the key factor that guides the collaboration and capacity building between the Tribal Education Department, State Department of Education, and Partner School Districts.


The goal of the Nez Perce STEP project is ”by the end of the 2018/19 school year, reduce the achievement gap by 50% in English Language Arts (ELA) and Math between American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) students, in targeted LEA’s on the Nez Perce reservation, and all students in Idaho (2014/15 baseline results).” Student achievement improvement will be reached by these objectives: .

  • Objective 1: Strengthen collaboration between the SEA and TEA in the administration of three (3) state formula grant programs, implemented by the partner LEA’s, that target improving basic programs, supporting effective instruction, and school improvement.
  • Objective 2: Build the capacity of the TEA and SEA to support partner LEAs to meet the unique educational and cultural needs of AI/AN students to improve their academic achievement.
  • Objective 3: Develop, monitor, and evaluate effective, culturally-responsive standards and practices implemented by partner LEAs to improve academic achievement of their AI/AN students, as related to three (3) selected state formula grant programs.


The Nez Perce STEP Project is funded by the U.S. Department of Education. During regional tribal consultations, tribal officials consistently discussed the lack of opportunities for Tribes to meaningfully participate in the education of their own children.

The STEP project aims to promote collaboration between Tribal and State Educational Agencies (TEA, SEA) and to build the capacity of Tribes as they develop and enhance their roles, responsibilities and accountability in Indian education. In 2015, STEP grants were permanently authorized for funding for Tribes under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

The Nez Perce TEA will perform certain state-level functions in federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) programs implemented in partner LEAs on the Nez Perce reservation. The SEA will build the TEA’s capacity to assume their role. The federal programs selected for Nez Perce STEP: a/ Improving Basic Programs(Title I, Part A); b/ Supporting Effective Instruction (Title II, Part A); and c/ School Improvement. .


As relates to ESEA programs and meeting the unique educational and cultural needs of AI/AN students, TEA staff will:

  • Provide technical assistance and professional development to partner LEAs. 
  • Consult on use of Native Star Culture and Language Indicators (culturally-responsive curriculum, environment, leadership), Nez Perce Cultural Standards (culturally-responsive classroom instruction), and Family Engagement tools.
  • Access tribal student data* to set action plans to improve academic achievement and graduation rates. *following FERPA laws.
  • Partner with the SEA to conduct monitoring visits on implementation of federal programs selected.
  • Coordinate with SEA and LEA to review annual federal program applications.

In the National Indian Education Association’s (NIEA) analysis of the White House 2014 Native Youth Report, the Nez Perce STEP project was recognized as an example of best practices for Strengthening Tribal Control of Education:

  • Teacher training program on the integration of cultural pedagogy, tribal education standards, and common core standards.

  • Technical assistance to their partner local education agencies (LEAs) on use of the Native Star Culture and Language Indicators which address culturally-responsive school leadership, community engagement, and infusion of culture and language into the school’s curriculum and instruction.

  • Platform for the Tribe’s TEA and the State of Idaho’s State Education Agency (SEA) and LEAs to work together to improve Native student performance.

  • A family engagement piece was also developed, which recognizes the role of the family as the first educator and organizes the parents and school staff to work together to assess parent involvement programs, policies, and practices.



Nez Perce Tribe 2006. All rights reserved.