Students of American Indian and Alaskan native descent are in an academic rut according to a new Nation’s Report Card from the U.S. National Assessment of Education Progress. Achievement gaps have remained stagnant for Native American students in reading since 2005, and in mathematics the gaps have actually increased.
The study did note that a majority of American Indian and Alaskan native students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, considered a mark of low family income. In Bureau of Indian Education schools and district schools with a high concentration of Native American students, the percentage of students identified as low-income exceeded 80% in 4th grade and ranged to as high as 90% in 8th grade in 2011. A majority of the students also attended rural schools, which may have fewer resources to support the needs of special student groups.
The study also examined the ways that schools connect students to their native cultures. A majority of American Indian and Alaskan native 4th graders reported having “some” or “a lot” of knowledge about their own tribe’s history, traditions, and culture, an increase from 2009. However, 8th graders reported no increase in cultural knowledge, and fewer reported knowing “a lot” about issues important to their tribes. Some states have begun working to shore up students’ cultural knowledge. Montana, for example, has developed an Indian Education for All curriculum.