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American Indian & Alaska Native Students Test Scores Not Improving

The National Indian Education Study 2011 indicates that more attention needs to be given to the education of elementary and junior high school American Indian and Alaska Native students.

The reading scores for fourth and eighth grade AI/AN students showed virtually no change from 2005 to 2011. Fourth-grade AI/AN students scored 19 points lower in comparison to non-AI/AN students who participated in the NAEP (Black, Hispanic, White, Asian, Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander, and students of two or more races). In grade eight reading, the gap was 13 points.

For mathematics, grade four AI/AN students’ scores were virtually unchanged from 2005 and 2009, while scores for all other grade four students went up. The gap between the two groups was 16 points, larger than the gap in 2005, when it was 12 points. The grade eight mathematics results were pretty much the same: AI/AN students’ scores were unchanged, while non-Native students scored higher. The gap in scores between the two groups was 19 points, while in 2005 it was 15 points.

Eighth-grade students eligible for the National School Lunch Program (which gives free or reduced-cost school lunches to kids) scored 23 points lower in reading and 20 points lower in math than students who were not eligible. Eligibility for the program is used as a rough indicator of income. Students who qualify for the program generally come from lower-income families than those who do not. In 2011, 72 percent of fourth-grade AI/AN students participating in the reading portion of the NAEP qualified for the school lunch program, compared with 66 percent in 2009 and 65 percent in 2005.

A huge majority of AI/AN students taking the NAEP attend public schools (89 percent at grade four, 92 percent at grade eight). Fifty percent of fourth graders and 44 percent of eighth graders attend high-density schools, those in which there are more than 25 percent AI/AN students. Students attending low-density schools (less than 25 percent AI/AN students) performed best on the NAEP; those in BIE schools performed the worst. A higher percentage of children attending high-density public schools were eligible for the free lunch program (83 percent of fourth graders and 78 percent of eighth graders) than those attending low-density schools (62 percent of fourth graders and 57 percent of eighth

American Indian & Alaskan Native Student dropout rates are among the highest in the nation.  There are direct correlations between dropout rates and poverty and yet, as a nation, we choose to ignore these correlations.  If we wish to improve our nation’s test scores and graduation rates politicians on the local, state and federal level need to provide additional services, teachers and funding to those schools and students who need the most help.  Politically, politicians shy away from providing the greatest assistance to the ones who need the most.

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