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
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):
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.
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.