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NATIONAL INDIAN EDUCATION STUDY: Fewer Than One in Five American Indian and Alaska Native Eighth Graders Read At or Above Grade Level

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Native students who attended “high-density” schools—defined as those where the proportion of American Indian and Alaska Native students was 25 percent or higher—scored sixteen points lower than their counterparts at low-density schools.

Only 18 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native eighth graders read at or above proficient, and just 16 percent perform at the proficient level or better in math, says the National Center of Education Statistics in its latest report. (1)

Titled the National Indian Education Study 2007, Part I, it provides analysis of the performance of American Indian and Alaska Native fourth and eighth graders who took the National Assessment of Educational Progress in reading and mathematics. Their results were compared to those from the first National Indian Education Study, which took place in 2005. For 2007, however, the results for eleven states with significant American Indian and Alaska Native populations were included, in addition to the national results that were part of both studies. (Part II of the study, which is expected to be released sometime this summer, will present the results of a survey of American Indian and Alaska Native students, their teachers, and their principals regarding their views on the relationship between culture and education.)

The average reading score for Native eighth graders decreased by two points between 2005 and 2007—from 249 to 247, though this change was not considered statistically significant. In the same time period, however, scores for non-Native students increased one point to 263, a change that was considered significant.

In comparison to other racial and ethnic groups, the average American Indian and Alaska Native score is equal to the average Hispanic score and two points higher than the average black score, but twenty-four points lower than the Asian and Pacific Islander average and twenty-five points lower than the white average. As is true with other student subpopulations, American Indian and Alaska Native girls, with an average score of 253, outscored their male peers by ten points. Both girls’ and boys’ scores, however, had dipped from 2005 by one and two points, respectively.

Native students who attended “high-density” schools—defined as those where the proportion of American Indian and Alaska Native students was 25 percent or higher—scored sixteen points lower than their counterparts at low-density schools. In addition, students who attended Bureau of Indian Education schools scored lower, with an average score of 228 compared to the 248 points scored by American Indian and Alaska Native students in regular public schools. However, this is a relatively small percentage of the entire population, as about nine out of ten Native students attend public schools.

State-level analysis for the eleven states studied in detail showed that the reading scores of eighth graders in Washington, Montana, North Dakota, and North Carolina were not significantly different than the average for all Native students. South Dakota, New Mexico, Alaska, and Arizona were below that average. Of the states studied in detail, only Oregon and Oklahoma posted average scores above the average; they and the thirty-nine states that were not studied in detail posted scores that were six to thirteen points higher than the national American Indian and Alaska Native average.

(1) Averages and percentages used in this report are for not only regular public schools, but also private and BIE schools.

The National Indian Education Study 2007, Part I.

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