BETHEL, Alaska — A Bethel school district has received federal funds to improve the language proficiency of Alaska Native students in both English and their native languages.

The U.S. Department of Education has awarded $15 million in grants to ten school districts across the country for language proficiency programs. Bethel’s Lower Kuskokwim School District has received $1.5 million in funding, KYUK-AM reported (

“We were just notified that we did receive $1.5 million for the next five years. It is a five year grant, so approximately $300,000 per year, and the focus of that grant is to supplement our dual language program in which we have Yup’ik and Cup’ik languages taught as part of our elementary,” said Assistant Superintendent Carlton Kuhns.

The district will work on the project with World-class Instructional Design and Assessment, an organization based at the University of Wisconsin that specializes in language development for culturally diverse students.

“We’re really excited about the work ahead of us,” Kuhns said. “The national experts are gonna work with our local language experts, so we will have elders and Yup’ik language teachers that will be working together in the summers to develop this program, so we’re really excited about that.”

Kuhns said the federal money will also be used to provide better testing for students to determine how proficient they are in their native languages and to create better programs for the future.

The national language proficiency grants are expected to help around 8,000 American Indian and Alaska Native students.

Information from: KYUK-AM,