American Indian Education KnowledgeBase

The American Indian Education KnowledgeBase is an online resource to aid education professionals in their efforts to serve American Indian students and close the achievement gap American Indian students have faced in public, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and other schools.

This KnowledgeBase is currently being updated to reflect recent changes under federal law. The current version is provided for your reference as much of the information may still be relevant.

Element 1: Foundations and Current Status of American Indian Education

Purpose: To ensure educators working with American Indian students are aware of past efforts at improving the academic achievement of these students, the limited success of these efforts, and current federally funded Indian education programs

Educators will:

  1. Understand past efforts to assimilate Indians through English-only assimilationist schooling and the opposition Indians may show to efforts at forced assimilation.
  2. Know the lasting effects of the Indian New Deal of the 1930s on American Indian education.
  3. Understand the effects of the Indian Self-Determination and Civil Rights movements on American Indian education.
  4. Understand the relationship between Indian tribes, states, and the federal government's Bureau of Indian Education.

Activity 1: Understand the History of American Indian Education

Activity 2: Understand the Current Status of American Indian Education

Element 2: American Indian Cultures

Purpose: Educators will understand the great cultural diversity among American Indians, as well as some of their commonalities. Educators will understand:
  1. What makes someone an American Indian, and what is a tribe today?
  2. What is an extended family?
  3. What is the significance of traditional American Indian values, such as humility, interconnectedness, and reciprocity?
  4. What should all Americans know about American Indians?

Activity 1: Be Aware of Tribal and Family Structures

Activity 2: Understand American Indian Traditional Tribal Values

Task 2: Examine Student Performance Data

Guideline: A number of studies show American Indian students with a dropout rate twice the national average, resulting in the highest dropout rate of any United States ethnic or racial group. About three out of every ten native students drop out before graduating from high school.

Academically capable native students often drop out of school because their needs are not being met. Some native students are pushed out because they protest how they are treated in school in a variety of ways. As with non-native dropouts, the most frequent reason dropouts give for leaving school is that it is "boring."

The 2005 report Status and Tends of Education of American Indians and Alaska Natives by the National Center for Education Statistics reported an American Indian dropout rate of 15% (compared to a 6% rate for "white" students), and noted dropouts were more likely to be unemployed or to earn less than high school graduates. The study noted American Indians had three times the rate of unemployment, the highest death rate for ages 15-19, the highest number of special education students, and the highest rate of absenteeism. The study also found American Indian students are the most effected by school violence and are least likely to have access to core academic programs.

Therefore, it is essential educators with native students in their schools cafefully monitor their academic performance.

Using Classroom Data to Monitor Individual Student Progress

This resource, from the Maryland Department of Education, offers an online workshop on how to use classroom data to monitor student progress. The workshp is aimed at helping principles support their teachers in effectively using classroom data. While oriented towards the Maryland state assessment system the content is useful for all schools.

American Indian School Dropouts and Pushouts

This website provides the text of the 1992 dropout study done by Professor Jon Reyhner, Northern Arizona University, for the U.S. Secretary of Education's Indian Nations at Risk Task Force as well as links to journal articles focusing on American Indian dropouts

Data Sources

This document contains links to national and state education data sources. The content may be useful to educators when developing a school profile.

Dropout Nation

Authored by Professor Jon Reyhner, Northern Arizona University, this article explores the high school drop out problem as it relates to American Indian students.

Improving American Indian Student Achievement

This resource provides a report on a May 2007 conference on improving American Indian student achievement sponsored by the North Central Comprehensive Center. A written and audio version of the report is provided by the Minnesota Public Radio network.

National Indian Education Study

This link is to the National Center for Education Statistics' National Indian Education Study (NIES) two-part study describing the condition of education for American Indian and Alaska Native students in the United States.

Status and Trends in the Education of American Indians and Alaska Natives

From the National Center for Education Statistics, "this report examines both the current conditions and recent trends in the education of American Indians and Alaska Natives using statistical measures. It presents a selection of indicators that illustrate the educational achievement and attainment of American Indians and Alaska Natives."

Element 3: Understanding Your School and Community

Purpose: Assessing American Indian students' academic performance and working with local tribes and other Indian organizations are necessary to develop culturally responsive teaching methods. Educators should:
  • Examine current American Indian student test scores, attendance rates, and dropout rates;
  • Work with tribes and community organizations; and
  • Work with national American Indian organizations and the National Indian Education Association.

Activity 1: Take a Snapshot of Your School and Community

Activity 2: Work With and Involve Community and Parents

Element 4: Use Culturally Responsive Teaching Methodologies

Purpose: Some research suggests one reason for the achievement gap faced by American Indian students is cultural conflicts between American Indian homes and schools. Accordingly, culturally responsive teaching methodologies should address:
  • American Indian learning styles;
  • Indianizing curriculum;
  • Ethnomathematics and ethnoscience;
  • American Indian charter and magnet schools; and
  • Language revitalization.

Activity 1: Helping American Indian Children to Learn

Activity 2: Integrate American Indian History and Culture into School Curriculum

Activity 3: The Role of American Indian Charter and Magnet Schools

Activity 4: Teaching Indigenous Languages