Sign up for the EdSource Symposium today! Registration ends September 28th

Credit: Courtesy of U.S. Department of Interior

Youth of the Mississippi Band Choctaw appear in tribal dress.

From kindergarten retention to high school graduation rates, education data show that American Indian and Alaskan Native students are faring the worst of all U.S. ethnic groups, according to a new White House report on Native youth.

“These statistics point to a stark reality: Native youth and Native education are in a state of emergency,” according to the 2014 Native Youth Report released this month. “Native children are far more likely than their non-Native peers to grow up in poverty, to suffer from severe health problems and to face obstacles to educational opportunity.”

“These conditions are systemic and severe,” the report notes, “and must be addressed through increased resources and strategic action.”

The report compiled these data about American Indian and Alaska youth:

  • Kindergarten students are held back at nearly twice the rate of white kindergarten students.
  • Only 22 percent of 4th-graders and 17 percent of 8th-graders scored at the “proficient” or “advanced” levels in math in 2011 compared with 40 percent of 4th-graders and 35 percent of 8th-graders nationally.
  • Their high school graduation rate is 67 percent, the lowest of any ethnic group, and they are least likely to attend a school that offers Advanced Placement classes.
  • Only 13 percent have completed a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with 29 percent of the U.S. population.

The report reviews “misguided colonial experiments” toward educating Indian children, which included “religious indoctrination, cultural intolerance, and the wholesale removal of Native children from their languages, religions, cultures, families and communities.” A series of laws beginning in the 1970s provided more local control to tribal governments and Native American communities, but the “inconsistent and often detrimental history of education policy” has left lasting scars, according to the report.

The report points to a number of factors that stand in the way of improving educational opportunities for Native youth and some initiatives that are addressing the problems cited.

President Barack Obama greets a Native American boy.

Credit: Courtesy of the White House

President Barack Obama greets a Native American boy.

For example, schools serving the third of Native youth who live in severe poverty lack extra support, such as nutrition and mental health and substance abuse counseling, that the students need. One in five Native American youth is obese, and another one in five is overweight, according to 2010 data, with the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes three times the national average. Native children are also 70 percent more likely to be identified in school as students with an emotional disturbance. Their suicide rate is 2.5 times the national average. The federal Indian Education Demonstration Grants program is supporting community-based programs in some areas to help these students, but more is needed, the report states.

Difficulties in recruiting and keeping highly trained teachers to work on reservations or in more remote schools where tribes are located is also a factor. Initiatives underway include more professional development for current teachers and a new Schools Operation Division aimed at recruiting and retaining more teachers.

The report also points to the need, which is unmet, to incorporate native languages and cultures in school to engage Native youth. In California in the 1800s, about 100 native languages were spoken, according to the report, but today only 50 languages have living speakers and none are being learned as the primary language of the household.

The report also supports giving more control of schools to local tribes. The Bureau of Indian Education is working to move from operating schools to supporting tribally run schools. The bureau’s schools educate about 8 percent of Native Americans.

In addition, the report notes, Native Americans attend schools without access to high-speed Internet connections. The report cites ConnectED, a national program underway to ensure 99 percent of America’s students have such access.

Finally, the report points to insufficient funding to meet the “large backlog of unmet Native American needs to overcome a long history of neglect and discrimination.” It calls on federal, state and local governments, businesses and nonprofits to provide support to end what is “nothing short of a national crisis.”

 


Comments

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Comments Policy

The goal of the comments section on EdSource is to facilitate thoughtful conversation about content published on our website. Click here for EdSource's Comments Policy.

Expand Comments
Collapse Comments
  1. Andrew 2 years ago2 years ago

    Something over a year ago the LA Times ran an article on the crisis at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. The article mentioned that 75% of the adults on the reservation suffered from alcoholism and 25% of the children evidenced Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). FAS and the brain damage associated with it would have a devastating effect on academic endeavors and the disruption of family life from alcoholism … Read More

    Something over a year ago the LA Times ran an article on the crisis at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. The article mentioned that 75% of the adults on the reservation suffered from alcoholism and 25% of the children evidenced Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). FAS and the brain damage associated with it would have a devastating effect on academic endeavors and the disruption of family life from alcoholism can’t help.

    Native Americans tend to have a genetic susceptibility to alcoholism if alcohol is consumed. And they have a genetic susceptibility to high carbohydrate modern diet that results in Type II diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and chronic disease. These genetic susceptibilities are not the result of some sort of defective genetic makeup, but quite the opposite.

    The Americas were the last populated continents to be settled, because initial settlement required an extraordinary journey which crossed the inhospitable Bering Strait, braving Arctic-like conditions. Increasing evidence suggests that those who successfully crossed not only faced the worst weather and climate, and the challenge of finding food in winter conditions, but also encountered and fought large and voracious mega-predators such as the now extinct carnivorous Short-Faced Bear. There is evidence that various population groups tried to cross at various times, but that only the ancestors of those who are now Native Americans had the intelligence, qualities and resourcefulness which enabled them to succeed in getting here under such adverse circumstances.

    Today’s Native Americans share the extraordinary genetic makeup of their ancestors who were helped by that genetic makeup to make that most incredible of journeys under the most adverse conditions. Their extraordinary genetic makeup is not well adapted to the alcoholic beverages and the high carbohydrate diet that American culture unwisely promotes and foists on today’s Natives. There are fascinating anecdotes of Natives who have returned to a more primitive healthful alcohol-free diet of their pre-agriculture ancestors with remarkable turn-arounds in diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and obesity. There aren’t a lot of carbohydrates in the wild up there in the region of the Behring Straits, and no alcohol, which is made with carbs, and those who crossed had to be well adapted to thriving with no carbs. We can all take a valuable lesson from these Natives returning to the wisdom of their roots, and the result can be better health and better education for all of us if we heed it. There is evidence that those of European ancestry are somewhat better adapted to surviving on bad foods and alcohol, but that is no virtue and they would fare much better without them and with healthier fare.

    Replies

    • FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

      Very good points. Native Americans are really Asians, who are beating whites in test scores by more than whites are beating Latinos and African Americans. There are several issues. One is education is seen not as a means of improving one's life but as a means of accepting the dominant white culture, and there is resistance to that. Another is that the best jobs are clustered near Silicon Valley and other … Read More

      Very good points. Native Americans are really Asians, who are beating whites in test scores by more than whites are beating Latinos and African Americans. There are several issues. One is education is seen not as a means of improving one’s life but as a means of accepting the dominant white culture, and there is resistance to that. Another is that the best jobs are clustered near Silicon Valley and other large metropolitan areas, and to move there for Native Americans really means a nearly complete loss of their culture. The same issue is seen somewhat with rural whites, as the white kids in SF actually do as well as Asian kids and in the Bay Area, it’s close, but Statewide it’s a huge gap because rural whites do not focus in school as moving to a big City would mean losing the community they grew up in. Alcohol also plays a role in lowering the IQ of a people with high natural intelligence before they are even born. Let’s also not underplay the meth problem. Carbs also lead to a lot of obesity and lethargy. Last but not least, TV is a huge problem, as TV is largely responsible for the huge Asian-white achievement gap, it also is hurting Native American, Latino and African American kids. If statewide every kid spent one of every two hours they spend watching TV or playing video games reading and studying, we’d have Luxembourg level test scores. This is not a case of poverty but of having too much money to buy these items which destroy motivation and work ethic.

      The best way to fix this is the dietary advice you have plus moving some jobs to areas they live in, and setting up offices there.

Template last modified: