FAILING OUR STUDENTS
Education is an important cornerstone for self-sufficiency and quality of life. Centuries ago, the United States government signed a treaty with Native Americans agreeing that in exchange for giving up their land, the federal government would fully operate and fund schools for Native students, in perpetuity. Since then, the U.S. government has failed to deliver on that promise. No other group of students in America fails to graduate or achieve proficiency at such a disproportionate rate as students in Indigenous communities.
67% of Native American students graduated from high school compared the national average of 80%.
While 28% of Americans complete college, only 13% of Natives hold a college degree.
Indigenous students are the only student population that did not improve their reading and math testing scores in grades four through eight from 2005–2011.
The backlog repair bill for the 68 highest-risk Bureau of Indian Education schools on Native American Reservations is $1.3 billion.
EDUCATION IN HISTORY
The failure of the First Nations education system began in the late 1800’s with American Indian Boarding Schools. In an attempt to “Americanize” indigenous children, they were taken from their families and placed into schools with abusive environments, where manual labor was often imposed. In classes, they were taught that their own culture and languages were inferior.
Decades later, when Native Americans were granted self-determination rights that extended to education, the quality of their education did not improve. Since then, there have been reports and inter-governmental condemnation regarding the management and state of reservation education, but with insufficient action to correct the situation.
THE CURRENT STATE OF
The Interior Department’s Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) currently supports 183 schools on 64 reservations in 23 states, with 48,000 students in total. Of these 183 schools, 59 are operated directly by the BIE and 124 are operated by local tribal school boards. These schools are struggling on multiple accounts — curriculum, lack of talent, under funding, and the structure of the schools themselves.
A Government Accountability Office report found that the BIE had so mismanaged schools that it had given them permission to use assessments that failed to meet federal requirements. Additionally, many schools have deficient curriculum to properly teach Native language and culture, often related to the fact that the school is run by the federal government rather than the tribe itself.
LACK OF SKILLED TEACHERS
Like many rural schools in America, BIE schools are underfunded and struggle to attract and keep qualified teachers and principles, even from within their own tribe.
LACK OF FUNDING
The BIE schools operated by local tribal school boards are funded by the federal government
LACK OF TECHNOLOGY
In terms of educational technology, 60% of Native schools lag behind 21st century standards, often lacking the bandwidth or computer access to support online learning.
PHYSICAL STRUCTURE ISSUES
Many of these schools are in extreme states of disrepair—with leaking roofs and walls, mold, and signs of asbestos.
THE CURRENT STATE OF
While students of every other major ethnic group in American have made educational progress in the last decade, the advancement of Native American students has remained relatively flat in comparison, while the gap separating these students from their white peers has widened. Additionally, these students underperform Native students that attend other public schools. In one study of fourth graders, BIE students on average scored 22 percent lower for reading and 14 points lower for math than Native students attending public schools.
Only 70% of the Native students who start kindergarten will graduate from high school, compared to a national average of 82 percent, according to NCES. Those attending BIE schools have an even lower graduation rate of 53%. Only 17% of Native students attend college, as opposed to the national average of 60%. While 28% of the general population holds a college degree, only 13% of Native Americans have a college degree. A lack of funding and resources coupled with geographic isolation can be a major obstacle for students who want to receive a quality education.
The Red Road is dedicated to providing information and the tools needed for Native American communities to close the achievement gap between Native students and students of the general population. We are also dedicated to impacting legislation that will give native communities the resources needed to improve their education systems.