No Progress on American Indian, Alaskan Native Achievement Gap

The National Indian Education Study has shown that while average math score for fourth grade American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) students have improved between 2009 and 2011, their overall academic progress has been stagnant since 2005.

“For too many American Indian and Alaska Native students, progress in closing the achievement gap has been too slow,” said Joyce Silverthorne, Director of the Office of Indian Education. “This report provides a key opportunity for increasing our understanding of the challenge and fostering the collaboration necessary to erase the achievement gap.”

The study revealed that between 50% and 66% of AI/AN students in fourth through eighth grades scored at least ‘Basic’ level in mathematics and reading, however there was no significant change in average reading scores for these students for a 2005 to 2009 comparison.

In both reading and mathematics, AI/AN students in low-density public schools outperformed students from high-density public schools.

There was a wide spread of regional variation in the results. For example in Oregon 61% of AI/AN students performed at or above ‘Basic’ level in fourth grade reading, however for Alaska this same figure was only 26%.

“American Indian and Alaska Native students need a top-flight education in order to fully participate in a 21st century economy, and the wide and persistent gap between our fourth and eighth grade Native students and their peers highlights that we need to do more to help these students,” said Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education.

The NIES goes beyond test results and explores the overall education experience of AI/AN students and how well integrated it was with their culture. 56% of fourth grade AI/AN and 63% of eighth grade students reported knowing a significant amount of their tribe or group’s history. These figures were higher in Bureau of Indian Education schools than low-density public schools.

The National Indian Education Study has been conducted every odd year since 2005 and reports for the overall AI/AN population. Results in the study are also broken down into categories such as eligibility for the National School Lunch Program, gender, and type of school. A public school is classified as ‘high density’ if 25% or more of its students are AI/AN and ‘low density’ if the school has fewer than 25% AI/AN students. The study also provides a regional breakdown for the 12 states which have significant populations of AI/AN students.

NIES is sponsored by the Office of Indian Education and conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics.