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Study of Oregon Native Students Aims to Influence Policy

A new study of Oregon's tribal students hopes to spur new policies to help them academically.

The Spirit Mountain Community Fund, the philanthropic arm of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, awarded a more than $70,000 grant to the Chalkboard Project to analyze test scores, degree attainment and post-secondary attainment for students in eight of Oregon's nine federally recognized Indian Tribes. The Spirit Mountain group said it's a first-of-its-kind analysis for the state.

"At this moment there is a great deal of focus on education reform in Oregon, but the students in Oregon's Tribes are being left out of the conversation and left behind on the path to academic success," said Kathleen George, director of the Spirit Mountain Community Fund, in a statement.

Nationally, Native American students' achievement lags every other ethnic group in math and reading, as well as high school graduation rates.

Oregon officials don't know the percentage of tribal students who live in rural areas, but they should when the study is finished. Of the state's 196 school districts, nearly one-third have less than 250 students. Oregon has more than 9,500 students who are American Indian or Alaskan Native.

"While we have a general sense that there is a significant achievement gap between tribal students and their peers, this study will provide a more meaningful and actionable look at how these students are performing in Oregon classrooms," said Sue Hildick, Chalkboard Project president, in a statement. "Our hope is that this report will lead to a call to action for this state to better support tribal students."

The study should be finished in time for the 2014 legislative session.

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