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Group Calls for Action on Grad Rates of Native Students

The National Indian Education Association has been busy the past few weeks expressing concern for Native American students' graduation rates, soliciting input on draft legislation, and encouraging advocates to register for an upcoming legislative summit.

Native students are a significantly rural population; there are an estimated 378,000 American Indian and Alaska Native students in the country, or about .7 percent of the total public school population.

Graduation rates
U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics released the latest graduation rates late last month.

Although the graduation rate for American Indian and Alaska Native students improved to 69 percent in 2009-10, that's still well below the national average of 78.6 percent. The NIEA responded by saying more needs to be done to ensure Native children have high-quality teaching and comprehensive culturally-based curricula.

"The latest graduation data is just a reminder that Native education is in crisis," said NIEA President Heather Shotton in a statement. "Our students aren't being provided high-quality education to succeed in the knowledge-based economy. This is a slide into inequality that we must reverse."

The NIEA has launched a new effort to pass legislation similar to the Native Culture, Language, and Access for Success in Schools (CLASS) Act, and it's asking for feedback by March 1.

The CLASS Act would amend part of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act and "address many of the systemic problems in Native education. This includes strengthening tribal control of education; supporting the preservation and revival of our Native languages; and encourage much-needed partnerships between tribal education departments and state education agencies," according the association.

Legislative Summit
The association will convene its 16th annual Legislative Summit 2013 on Feb. 25-27 in Washington. Native education advocates are invited to the two-day conference, where the association will unveil its 2013 Congressional and White House policy agenda and discuss Native and national education issues.

The association released policy recommendations in November, in an effort to provide guidance to federal leaders to understand the unique needs of Native students.

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