Left Behind: American Indians/Alaska Natives and Education

It is a commonly accepted idea that the educational system is failing our kids. In the eyes of many, our test scores and high school graduation rates are unsatisfactory. This seems to be especially true with Alaska Native and American Indian youth. According to he National Indian Education Association, a non profit that tackles issues in education for American Indians, of all Alaska Natives and Hawaiian Natives youth:ansep

– 69% received a high school diploma within four years
– 19% of 9th grade females received special education services
– 40% attended a school that did not meet Adequate Yearly Progress
– 72% of 4th graders were eligible for free-or-reduced lunches
– In 2010, only 12% of young adults (25-34) had a bachelors degree

These are just a few of the statistics the website gives. Both the states Oregon and Alaska had some of the lowest high school graduation rates for AI/AN youth at 52% and 51% respectively. AI/AN students make up 20% of the student population in Alaska, and as someone who grew up in the state of Alaska, it is impossible to ignore such a large percentage of the population who is being so greatly left behind by the educational system.

An article from the Huffington Post lists many reasons for these disparities, including lack of materials that relate to the students’ cultures, the presence of culturally-insensitive images and stereotypes in schools, and over-representation of AI/AN students in high schools lacking education that may prepare them for careers and/or college after school.

There are some programs in place that are trying to combat these disparities. One is the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program (ANSEP). The name is pretty self explanatory- it helps students be prepare to receive degrees in that would allow them to go into STEM careers. The program lists several goals they wish to have every high school student accomplish such as “completing biology, chemistry, physics, trigonometry, and Calculus 1 before high school graduation” and “teaching another student how to build a computer” – pretty impressive goals for any high school student. After they enter college, they continue the University portion of the program.

Want to get Involved?
There are many ways to get involved to help AI/AN success. If you thought ANSEP seems like an awesome program you want to support, they takes donations on their web page. NIEA also takes donations, as well as lists job and internship opportunities. For further reading, check out:

Huffington Post article with more statistics
The Native Culture, Language, and Access for Success (CLASS) Act

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