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Many Native American Students Don't Learn About Their Languages and Cultures in School

A new report that delves into the K-12 experiences of American Indian and Alaska Native students found that roughly half of them have never been exposed to their native languages in school or at home.

The paper, which explores findings from the National Indian Education Study—a report that comes out every four years—found that students in schools with a larger share of American Indian and Alaska Native students were more likely to be exposed to native languages than were their peers in schools with fewer native students.

Overall, students attending Bureau of Indian Education schools were more likely to report being exposed to Native languages "sometimes" or "often" when compared to their peers attending traditional public schools.

The National Indian Education Study, administered as part of the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), collects data on a nationally representative sample of 4th- and 8th-grade American Indian and Alaska Native students in public, private, Department of Defense, and the Bureau of Indian Education schools.

The study is designed to provide tribal leaders, educators, policymakers, and researchers with data about the education of native youth, including a look at how connected they are to their cultures and languages.

Capture NIE Study photo.JPG

The survey asked students about the integration of native culture into school and classroom activities. The findings indicate that students who performed well on the NAEP were more likely to have access to: a school library, media center, or resource center that contained materials about American Indian and Alaska Native people; more than 25 books in their homes; and a home computer.

Fourth-grade students who reported being exposed to native languages "often" were more likely to express interest in reading about their cultures.

Overall, about 40 percent of the students reported having "some" cultural knowledge with 13 percent reporting they knew nothing about their cultures or current issues important to American Indian and Alaska Native people.

Eighth-graders at Bureau of Indian Education schools were twice as likely as their peers to report having "a lot" of cultural knowledge. Eighth-grade students who reported being exposed to native languages "often" were more likely to express a high level of cultural knowledge in comparison with their peers who had less exposure to native languages.

Fourth-grade students who reported being exposed to native languages "often" were more likely to express interest in reading about their cultures.

Native American students make up about 1 percent of all students nationally. About 8,500 4th-graders and 8,200 8th-graders participated in the survey. While students at Bureau of Indian Education schools were more likely to have ties to native languages and cultures, 90 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native students attend traditional public schools.

National assessment results, including those from NAEP, show that American Indian and Alaska Native youth underperform compared to their peers in other groups.

"One of the greatest challenges is ensuring that Native students are able to perform well academically while maintaining their Native cultures and languages," according to a statement, from a panel of educators, that accompanied the release of the study. "For Native students to achieve their full potential, educational systems and practices must work diligently to feed their bodies, nurture their spirits, and grow their minds. The adoption and use of culturally relevant teaching and learning practices is critical to achieving this goal."

Here's a look at the report and a statement accompanying the findings:

   National Indian Education Study a Closer Look by corey_c_mitchell on Scribd

   National Indian Education Study Setting the Context by corey_c_mitchell on Scribd

Related Reading

Education in Indian Country: Obstacles and Opportunity

Most Native Americans Receive English-Only Instruction

Nation's Report Card Shows Strengths, Shortfalls for Native American Students

Image Credit: National Indian Education Study 2015; U.S. Department of Education

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