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This blog entry was written to push for further research into Native American high school graduation and dropout rates in the State of Minnesota.  Upon review of data sets and statistics from the past decade, the achievement gap between Native Americans and white students has remained constant at 39%, while Black students have closed the gap by over 10 points and Hispanic students have narrowed the achievement gap by nearly 12%.

Nationally the numbers are not great, but as a graduate student at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, I was just looking into Minnesota.  Would like some input and connect with other people concerned about the low graduation rates and high dropout rates of Native Americans and come up with real solutions.  The high unemployment rates of Native Americans is a direct result of having lower high school graduation figures as written about by Meteor Blades with "American Indian unemployment far above that of general population with no relief in sight," entry from earlier today.

There appears to be a growing disparity between Native American students and other groups when it comes to high school graduation percentage rates.  In 2003 Native Americans graduated high school at a 1.5 and 4.5 percent greater rate than Black and Hispanic students, today they trail both groups.

Ten Year Graduation Rate Trendlines in Minnesota

2003 to 2012 Graduation Comparisons for Students of Color
The data supports the fact that methods, No Child Left Behind and others, implemented January 8, 2002, positively impacted Asian, Hispanic, and Black student graduation rates over the past ten years but had little effect on increasing Native American graduation and dropout rates.  This and other factors should be further studied in order to address high school graduation and dropout rates of Native American students.

Hypothesis: Teaching methods and/or policies that increased Hispanic and Black student graduation rates while reducing their dropout rates in Minnesota have not impacted Native American student graduation or dropout rates to the same extent.

The data analyzed in this report came from Minnesota Department of Education data center, great assistance provided by Shirley A. Kampa, Indian Education Program Specialist.   Ten separate data sets from ten years were downloaded.  The information was assembled and analyzed in a combined workbook.  The data includes graduation rates, dropout rates (number of students who dropped out), continuation rates (the number of students who did not graduate on time but are continuing towards graduation), and Unknown rates which is students that did not graduate, dropout, or continue, it is data comprised of students who fell of the grid when it comes to communication with their schools.

The data is a National Standard used by all States and is valid and reliable.  This data is used for policy research by State and Federal government, educators, business, private sector, and other stakeholders to monitor and measure the achievement levels of the Minnesota education system.

The Native American Problem in Minnesota:

While the high school graduation rates of other minority groups have made great strides in increasing graduation and decreasing dropout rates in Minnesota.  Native American rates remained consistent over the ten-year sample.

In Minnesota Native Americans comprise 2.2% of the student body yet only 1.3% of the graduating class, they account for an astounding 8.1% of the dropouts which is nearly 4 times their aggregated rate.  Only 41 out of every 100 Native Americans who were age eligible (they started kindergarten the same year) to graduate. completed high school last year.  Nationally Native Americans graduate at a rate of 51% but in Minnesota the rate last year was just over 10% lower at 45.5%.

Only South Dakota at 33% and Alaska at 42.5% have a lower high school graduation rate for Native Americans than Minnesota (US News and World Report, June 6, 2013).

Ten Year Graduation Rates by Race (see chart):


Ten Year Graduation Trends for Students of Color in Minnesota
Other Students of Color Closing the Gap:

Asian students have closed the achievement gap with White students from 15.5% in 2003 to 9.9% in 2012.  Asians moved their yearly graduation total from 2,401 to 3,278 students improving by 35.4%.  Nationally Asian students have the highest graduation percentage of all racial groups at 79% and projections show that Asian students will surpass white students in the next decade.  Minnesota Asian dropout rates have been cut nearly in half from 351 students in 2003 to 193 last year a low 4.4%.  Only white students have a lower dropout percent at 3.6%.

Hispanic students made the greatest positive change in the past ten years.  In 2003 they had the lowest high school graduation rate of 33.4%.  Last year over 53% of the Hispanic students graduated in Minnesota, Nationally 58% of Hispanic students graduate and that number is increasing yearly.  In the past ten years Hispanics have surpassed Native Americans and Black/African American students and have narrowed the achievement gap with White students from 45.5 % to 39.4%, a nearly 15% improvement.

Over the past ten years the standard deviation for Hispanic graduation had a .066 spread and dropouts was a .062, which tells us that Hispanic students had the greatest percent of change which indicates the largest swing from the median from year to year.

Hispanic students also saw the largest change in dropout percentage, from 32.1% of Hispanics dropping out in 2003 to only 13.9%.  A reduction of 18.2%, from 945 dropouts to 549 in ten years, Hispanics have made huge strides in Minnesota in key education indicators.

Black/African American students also made positive progress, from an average graduation rate of 36.4% to 51% over ten years.  Nationally Black students have a 60% graduation rate which has improved yearly over the past decade.   In Minnesota over 1,297 more students graduated last year versus 2003 because of the efforts utilized to improve graduation, retention and decrease dropouts, the 1,297 equaled an increase of 39.6%.  

At the same time dropout rates was cut in half from 18.8% to 9.3%, which means over 426 Black students remained in school.  Communication with Black students has improved with the Unknown reason for not graduating or dropping out decreasing from 662 students to 493.  

 Nearly one of every three African Americans do not graduate on time.  They have the highest percentage of students continuing beyond their fourth year to graduate at 32% and 2,057 students in 2012.  This rate has averaged 32.8% over the past ten years.

The Native American Problem:

Native American graduation rates are static in comparison to the other groups that made remarkable improvement in cutting the achievement gap.  Ten years ago the Native American graduation rate was 37.9%, last year it was 45.5% and has averaged 42.4% over the past ten years.  Graduation percentage rate only increased by 7.5% and only white students saw a lower percent increase in graduation over the ten year period at 5% (from 78.9 to 83.9%).

Native American dropout rates continue to be abysmal with nearly one in five Native Americans dropping out of school.  The 18.3% dropout rate is the highest percentage of any group in Minnesota.  Ten years ago the dropout rate was 24.4% and 399 students dropping out, last year it was 284 students and was the highest dropout rate of all groups.

The standard deviation on Native American graduation and dropout figures over the past ten years was .020 for both graduation and dropout percentage, which demonstrates that the rates stayed very close to the median with little to no deviation.  Stagnant figures with little improvement or decline while Hispanic and Black figures showed significant improvement from median and average.

Continuation percentages of Native Americans are static, 404 students continued in 2003 and ten years later the number was 407, an increase of only 3 students.  Native Americans have the second highest rate of continuation, which means that they are not graduating on time (in four years) only African Americans have a higher percentage of continuation.

Therefore, current programs for teaching students of color in place in the State of Minnesota are not improving Native American graduation rates to the level that they are with other racial groups, i.e. Black and Hispanic students and a new tactic must be found.

Null Hypothesis: Teaching is teaching and what works for one group works for all students.

Dropout Rates Decreasing for Hispanic and Black Students, little change for American Indians:

By comparing the Black and Hispanic graduation/dropout rates with those of Native Americans, you see that both groups were able to make great strides over the past ten years.  So what worked to increase their graduation rates did not increase Native American graduation rates.

Also, the fact that there is a huge achievement gap between all students of color versus white students demonstrates clearly that the null hypothesis is not true.  If teaching was teaching, all students would graduate at the same level.  Therefore students of color learn differently and further study is recommended to address that disparity.


Minnesota Graduation Rates and Dropout Rates for Students of Color over the Past Ten Year
Solutions to Addressing Native American Graduation/Dropout Rates:

Communication plans, exit interviews, surveys, interviews with Native American counselors, and other qualitative analytic tools are keys to finding out why they dropped out, and preventing them from falling off the grid is important for developing retention programs.  This data is vital to addressing systemic shortfalls and increase graduation and retention rates of Native Americans.  

Research to be conducted with schools, curriculum delivery/ design, or programs that saw improvement in Native American graduation rates in individual schools or districts in Minnesota should be compiled and analyzed to determine if those methods should be offered for all Native American students.

A coalition should be assembled, comprised of Native American parents, students, school administrators, and educators should be convened to garner input and feedback in developing retention and communication programs to address the Native American problem.

States with higher Native American graduation percentages should be benchmarked and cooperation between the Minnesota Education Association and the National Indian Education Association should be considered in addressing the 1,000 yearly Native American dropouts.

Continued study and monitoring of this program should be on-going and key indicators updated on a weekly/monthly basis.

Finding solutions to improving Native American graduation rates is imperative and all options should be on the table because the Native American problem will continue to grow as Native American student rates are projected to increase over the next decade.

Originally posted to scarletraven on Thu Dec 19, 2013 at 01:33 PM PST.

Also republished by Invisible People, Native American Netroots, and Community Spotlight.


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Comment Preferences

  •  "A coalition should be assembled, comprised of... (14+ / 0-)

    ... Native American parents, students, school administrators, and educators should be convened to garner input and feedback in developing retention and communication programs to address the Native American problem."

    Listening to what Indians have to say about the problem? What a novel approach.

    Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

    by Meteor Blades on Thu Dec 19, 2013 at 01:52:23 PM PST

  •  Great ideas, scarletraven! (6+ / 0-)

    I'd like to see all of this take place. I am not, however, holding my breath. What you suggest is what ought to be obvious, but never seems to be to the dominant culture. Who knows the inputs to the problem and the solutions to it better than the people(s) affected?

    •  Knowing the problem is the first step... (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Kitsap River, kyril, Odysseus, Nulwee, OHdog

      Professors and dean at the grad school were unaware of this disparity until I brought it forward.  While I am the only Native in a program with over 500 students, our perspectives and issues are lost.  The associate dean is a strong advocate and we are working to creating a Native leadership program and offering 3-5 full scholarships for Native Americans next Fall.  Would appreciate the help and support of the Native Netroots in getting the word out and getting their input on components needed for a strong leadership program and identifying strong candidates from Indian Country in a top 10 public policy graduate program.

      Theron "Scarlet Raven" Thompson

      by scarletraven on Thu Dec 19, 2013 at 07:59:48 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  It would be interesting to pull out the data (7+ / 0-)

    between Indians attending public schools versus Indians attending schools on reservations.

    Reservation schools are (under)funded through the Bureau of Indian Affairs and it's my understanding that they have substantially limited resources in most cases, including substandard facilities.

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Thu Dec 19, 2013 at 02:52:19 PM PST

  •  Thanks for publishing this. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    It is a very important topic and I'm glad to see it addressed. Just one point that bothers me. The phrase  "The Native American Problem."

    It reinforces the idea that we are a "problem".  Not that there are problems affecting the Native American people.
    To me it all goes back to the idea that we aren't real, normal people like everybody else.  It is dehumanizing, just like sports mascot are dehumanizing. And maybe that dehumanization is part of the problem.  

    Be well, ~*-:¦:-jennybravo-:¦:-*~

    by jennybravo on Thu Dec 19, 2013 at 04:29:47 PM PST

    •  It is a is not a play on words (0+ / 0-)

      When Native American graduation rates stay 39% below white students and African American and Hispanic rates which were below Native rates ten years ago and today they are 5-7 points higher, that is a "problem."  It is nothing like the mascot issue, until this is brought to light, especially in MN and SD, where the grad rates are below National rates, it is something that needs to be addressed.  The college and graduate school rates are a big issues but before college matriculation and graduation rates can be addressed, more Natives need to be graduating high school, and we need to have more Native teachers and counselors...

      Theron "Scarlet Raven" Thompson

      by scarletraven on Thu Dec 19, 2013 at 07:55:03 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The problem is (0+ / 0-)

        referring to Native Americans as a "Problem" rather than than referring to the education of Native Americans as the problem.  I don't know how old you are, but I remember very clearly the offense we felt back in 60's and 70's when we were regularly referred to as a problem. It still holds true today.

        Would you title a diary, "The Black Problem- Low High School Graduation Rates and High Dropout Rates"

        Please rethink this phrase. I admire your research and concern and I think this phrase hurts your goal.

        Be well, ~*-:¦:-jennybravo-:¦:-*~

        by jennybravo on Fri Dec 20, 2013 at 12:22:32 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  This is all so sad because (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    scarletraven, Kitsap River, kyril

    this education gap between Native Americans and everyone else has been going on just about forever.  I grew up just to the north of the Pine Ridge Reservation in SD.  After graduating from high school in 1964, I went to Northern State College (now N.S. University) in Aberdeen.  Out of the 3,400-odd students there, we had all of three Native Americans even though there was, at that time, a tuition waiver deal available in SD to anyone who could prove s/he was at least 1/8 Native American.  Why were there so few?  Quite simply, I think, because the public school system had failed them because very, very few ever got a high school diploma. I remember there were five in my incoming high school freshman class (grade 9 - we were on a 8-4 system, not a 6-3-3 system), but by the time graduation rolled around four years later all but one had dropped out.  

    -7.13 / -6.97 "The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion." -- Edmund Burke

    by GulfExpat on Thu Dec 19, 2013 at 04:47:46 PM PST

  •  A nicely scientific assessment of the problem to (4+ / 0-)

    be studied.  My non-scientific, intuitive suggestion as to one possibility would fall under the 'teaching is not just teaching' umbrella.  I would suppose that, like nursing, teaching needs to have a cultural competency component.  Teachers who don't understand the nuances of how specific populations (in this case NA) learn cannot effectively teach those populations.  If one size fits all is a failure even among largely homogenous groups, just think of how badly it will fit groups who were never even considered when designing curricula.

    Native Americans remain 'the Invisible People' in the US.  While teachers have worked to be more inclusive of other peoples of colour in creating lesson plans, I would be surprised to find that same amount of care given to reworking lessons to work for Native American learners.

  •  If teaching were teaching (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kyril, Nulwee

    " If teaching was teaching, all students would graduate at the same level.  Therefore students of color learn differently and further study is recommended to address that disparity."

    On grounds of either logic or statistical design, this conclusion is unwarranted. Maybe teaching is teaching, but students aren't students. Just to begin with, apparently for 41% of the NA population, whatever instruction is now in place is successful. So, what are these teachers doing right?

    Or, "If students were students, all teaching would result in high school graduation." Therefore, teachers of students of color must  be teaching differently. So, methods to produce greater uniformity in teaching need study.

    Leaving aside the vast, undefined matter of just what is being subsumed under "teaching," some other variables and issues might need to be explored before concluding that "students of color learn differently."

  •  You may want to take a look at South High (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    in Minneapolis;

    there are three programs under one roof: Liberal Arts, Open High, and All Nations.
    The All Nations program is designed specifically for Native American students; drum ceremonies, smudging with sage, classes that incorporate Native values and history, Ojibwe language classes, etc.

    This has spilled over into the other programs; both my daughters were in the Liberal Arts program, but their classes incorporated Native American history.
    For one project, my youngest daughter and I walked the trail on Pike Island in Fort Snelling park, which was the site of a Native American concentration camp 150 years ago.
    Our goal was to witness the sunrise at the furthest point of Pike Island, which is at the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers, and the birthplace of the World, according to the Dakota people.
    On our hike, she told me all about the Dakota War, the concentration camp, and the mass hanging of Native American men after the War (something Governor Mark Dayton apologised for on the 150th anniversary of the event-- nobody had ever done that before).

    Anyway, I seem to remember that the year my oldest daughter started at South (2006), the graduation rate for the All Nations program was 100%, but I haven't been able to find that data anywhere.

  •  Did a significant external shock differentially... (0+ / 0-)

    ...affect Native American students in Minnesota around 2010-2011?

    I ask because they're the only group that went down in your ten-year chart over that period.  Had it not been for that drop, their improvements over 2009-2010 and 2011-2012 seem to parallel those of blacks and hispanics.

    Perhaps there's an identifiable factor there that could be addressed.

    (Don't let me send you down a rabbit hole, though!  It may be nothing more than the lagging effects of recession.)

  •  I've known a few kids who moved from Pine Ridge (0+ / 0-)

    to live with relatives in Cleveland. Profound culture shock is the best way to describe their problems. In spite of having relatives who had "made it out" they felt like no one could understand thier feelings. Kind of like teen age angst but double real.
    Some groups that sponsor Student Foreign Exchange teach the cultural norms to the American kids before they go to their new country. Maybe something like that would help First Nation kids since their prior exposure is mainly through TV or rural White small towns.

    Life is just a bowl of Cherries, that stain your hands and clothes and have pits that break your teeth.

    by OHdog on Fri Dec 20, 2013 at 11:17:29 AM PST

  •  I re-read your diary, looking for (0+ / 0-)

    references to poverty, but it does not seem to be identified as a factor.  Many Native Americans are living in poverty, and it is extremely difficult for children in poverty to be successful in school.

    In the public school where I teach, approximately 90% of the student population is Native American.  I don't know the statistics, but MANY of our students are living in poverty.  The poverty is deep, systemic and generational.  Poverty affects student absenteeism and learning readiness, as it brings struggles and chaos into the home environment. Obviously, this affects the kids.  It's pretty hard to succeed in school when you don't know where you're sleeping tonight.

    Our district tries to do everything possible to keep kids in school.  Our curriculum and culture incorporate many cultural tools.  We have a school drum, tribal elders visit routinely, we have Native American counselors and advocates, and we smudge in school.  Our lessons are very hands-on, which is a teaching style that works well with our kids.  The majority of our coaches and activity advisers are Native, and many of our students are involved in these extra-curricular activities.

    I believe that Native American students' drop-out rates are indicative of larger societal problems, and I put poverty at the top of the list.

    Stand Up! Keep Fighting! Paul Wellstone

    by RuralLiberal on Fri Dec 20, 2013 at 11:26:08 AM PST

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