Report Shows Progress Among Native Students Continues to Lag

A new brief from The Education Trust shows that while progress has been made to improve academic outcomes for minority students of color, achievement among Native students has not seen similar gains. According to The State of Education for Native Students, American Indian and Alaska Native students have seen the benefits from the recent aggressive moves taken by states and school districts to close the gap between minority children and their white peers.

Over the years between 2005 and 2011, Native students showed the slowest rate of improvement of any other demographic group. While they outperformed their African-American peers in 2005, this slow rate of improvement means that Native students are now performing at a similar level.

When compared to white students, the situation is even more dire. While 46% of white forth-graders were found to be proficient in reading in the 2011 edition of the National Assessment of Education Progress, only 18% of Native fourth-graders were at the same level.

“Our country’s focus on raising achievement for all groups of students has left behind one important group – Native students,” said Kati Haycock, president of The Education Trust. “To ensure that all Native students succeed, we must do more and better for them starting now.”

Achievement for Native students has continued to lag in higher education as well. Of the Native students who enrolled in a four-year college in the fall of 2004, only 39 percent completed a bachelor’s degree within six years, the lowest graduation rate for any group of students.

What makes these numbers particularly distressing is the fact that there are some schools that have had great success in improving academic outcomes for Native kids. Specifically, at Calcedeaver Elementary in Mobile County, Alabama – where 80% of students as Native Americans or Alaskan Natives – more than 60% achieve the best possible scores in math on the state’s standardized exams which is also more than double the state average.

And although no state is doing as well as it should for Native students, some states are doing better than others. In 2011, the percent of students reaching proficient or advanced levels on NAEP in fourth-grade reading, for example, was at least three times higher in Oregon and Oklahoma than in Alaska and Arizona.

“There’s an urgent need to pick up the pace of improvement for Native students in this country,” said Natasha Ushomirsky, Ed Trust senior data and policy analyst and author of the brief. “Some states, schools, and institutions of higher education are already working hard to ensure progress for Native students. We need to understand what they are doing right and use those strategies to improve outcomes for Native students around the country.”