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REL Midwest Ask A REL Response

American Indians

June 2018

Question:

What does the research say about practices that increase educational outcomes among K–12 American Indian students? Educational outcomes of interest include attendance rates, academic achievement, graduation rates, and dropout rates.



Response:

Following an established Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest protocol, we conducted a search for research reports, descriptive studies and literature reviews on practices that increase educational outcomes among K–12 American Indian students. In particular, we focused on identifying resources related to attendance rates, academic achievement, graduation rates and dropout rates. For details on the databases and sources, keywords, and selection criteria used to create this response, please see the Methods section at the end of this memo.

Below, we share a sampling of the publicly accessible resources on this topic. The search conducted is not comprehensive; other relevant references and resources may exist. The references are selected from the most commonly used research resources and may not be comprehensive. For each reference, we provide an abstract, excerpt, or summary written by the study’s author or publisher. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. We have not evaluated the quality of these references, but provide them for your information only.

Research References

Akiba, M., Chiu, Y.–F., Zhuang, Y.–L., & Mueller, H. E. (2008). Standards–based mathematics reforms and mathematics achievement of American Indian/Alaska Native eighth graders. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 16(20), 1–31. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ819214

From the ERIC abstract: “Using the NAEP nationally-representative data collected from eighth-graders, we investigated the relative exposure of American Indian/Alaska Native (AIAN) students to mathematics teachers who are knowledgeable about standards, participate in standards–based professional development, and practice standards–based instruction; American Indian/Alaska Native student reports of standards–based classroom activities; and how student reports of classroom activities and teacher reports of their knowledge, professional development, and practices are associated with mathematics achievement of American Indian/Alaska Native students. We found that AIAN students had among the lowest exposure to teachers who reported they were knowledgeable about standards, who participated in standards-based professional development, and who practiced standards–based instruction. In addition, AIAN students were less likely than African American and Latino students to report that they experienced standards–based classroom activities. Our data showed that teacher reports of standards–based knowledge and practice of standards–based instruction were not significantly associated with mathematics achievement of AIAN students. However, student reports of classroom activities characterizing standards–based instruction was associated with higher mathematics achievement of AIAN students.”

Castagno, A. E., & Brayboy, B. M. J. (2008). Culturally responsive schooling for Indigenous youth: A review of the literature. Review of Educational Research, 78(4), 941–993. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ896558

From the ERIC abstract: “This article reviews the literature on culturally responsive schooling (CRS) for Indigenous youth with an eye toward how we might provide more equitable and culturally responsive education within the current context of standardization and accountability. Although CRS for Indigenous youth has been advocated for over the past 40 years, schools and classrooms are failing to meet the needs of Indigenous students. The authors suggest that although the plethora of writing on CRS reviewed here is insightful, it has had little impact on what teachers do because it is too easily reduced to essentializations, meaningless generalizations, or trivial anecdotes—none of which result in systemic, institutional, or lasting changes to schools serving Indigenous youth. The authors argue for a more central and explicit focus on sovereignty and self–determination, racism, and Indigenous epistemologies in future work on CRS for Indigenous youth.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full–text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

DeVoe, J. F., & Darling–Churchill, K. E. (2008). Status and trends in the education of American Indians and Alaska Natives: 2008 (NCES 2008-084). Jessup, MD: National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED502797

From the ERIC abstract: “This document examines the educational progress of American Indian/Alaska Native children and adults and challenges in their education. This report shows that over time more American Indian/Alaska Native students have gone on to college and that their attainment expectations have increased. Despite these gains, progress has been uneven and differences persist between American Indian/Alaska Native students and students of other racial/ethnic groups on key indicators of educational performance. The report is organized into the following four chapters containing a total of seven indicators: (1) Demographic Overview; (2) Preprimary, Elementary, and Secondary Education; (3) Postsecondary Education; and (4) Outcomes of Education. It is noted that the relatively small size of the American Indian and Alaska Native population poses many measurement difficulties when using statistical data. Researchers studying data on American Indians and Alaska Natives often face small sample sizes that reduce the reliability of results and survey data for American Indians and Alaska Natives often have somewhat higher standard errors than data for other racial/ethnic groups. The indicators presented are intended to provide an overview of the education data available on American Indians/Alaska Natives from many federal surveys. Many of the variables examined in this report may be related to one another, and complex interactions and relationships among the variables have not been explored. The variables presented here are also just a sample of thousands that can be examined using the included surveys, and were selected to provide a range of data relevant to a variety of policy issues, rather than emphasize comprehensive information on any particular issue.”

Demmert, W. G., Grissmer, D., & Towner, J. (2006). A review and analysis of the research on Native American students. Journal of American Indian Education, 45(3), 5–23. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/24398592?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

From the article: “The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation enacted in 2002 places emphasis on improving student achievement, particularly the achievement of minority and disadvantaged students. The focus on minority and disadvantaged students arises because their scores traditionally lag behind the scores of white and/or advantaged students. Among minority and disadvantaged groups there is much research and achievement data that has focused on measuring and explaining the achievement of black and disadvantaged white students. Less research has been done on Hispanic students. In comparison to each of these groups, there has been very little research and data collected on measuring and explaining the achievement of Native American students.”

Education Trust. (2013). The state of education for Native students. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from https://edtrust.org/resource/the-state-of-education-for-native-students/

From the abstract: “Despite recent progress in improving achievement among students of color, achievement results for Native students have remained nearly flat. As achievement has stagnated, the gaps separating Native students from their white peers have mostly widened. But these trends are not inevitable. Some states, schools and institutions of higher education are already working hard to ensure progress for Native students.”

Fischer, S., & Stoddard, C. (2013). The academic achievement of American Indians. Economics of Education Review, 36, 135–152. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0272775713000812

From the abstract: “The academic achievement of American Indians has not been extensively studied. Using NAEP supplements, we find that the average achievement relative to white students resembles other disadvantaged groups. However, there are several differences. Family characteristics explain two times as much of the raw gap as for blacks. School factors also account for a larger portion of the gap than for blacks or Hispanics. The distribution is also strikingly different: low performing American Indian students have a substantially larger gap than high performing students. Finally, racial self–identification is more strongly related to achievement, especially as American Indian students age.

Highlights

  • The academic achievement of American Indians has not been extensively studied.
  • We find the average achievement gap relative to whites is similar to other disadvantaged groups, but with several differences.
  • Family characteristics and school factors explain more of the gap than for blacks or Hispanics.
  • Gaps are larger at lower percentiles of the distribution, with a much steeper gradient than for other demographic groups.
  • Racial self–identification is more strongly related to achievement, especially as American Indian students age.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

López, F. A., Schram, J., & Vasquez Heilig, J. (2013). A story within a story: Culturally responsive schooling and American Indian and Alaska Native achievement in the National Indian Education Study. American Journal of Education, 119(4), 513–538. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1018646

From the ERIC abstract: “There have been numerous calls to increase quantitative studies examining the role of culturally responsive schooling (CRS) on American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) achievement. The National Indian Education Study (NIES) is the only large–scale study focused on (AIAN) students’ cultural experiences within the context of schools. Given that NIES also includes achievement on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), it has the potential to inform and guide policy directed specifically toward AIAN students. To examine ways NIES might potentially inform policy, the present study examined the degree to which AIAN student experiences as reflected in NIES are associated with achievement on NAEP. We then examined NIES against a CRS framework and found that NIES could inform policy to the detriment of AIAN students.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full–text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Nelson, S., Greenough, R., & Sage, N. (2009). Achievement gap patterns of grade 8 American Indian and Alaska Native students in reading and math (REL 2009–073). Portland, OR: Regional Educational Laboratory Northwest. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED505877

From the ERIC abstract: “Focusing on student proficiency in reading and math from 2003–04 to 2006–07, this report compares gaps in performance on state achievement tests between grade 8 American Indian and Alaska Native students and all other grade 8 students in 26 states serving large populations of American Indian and Alaska Native students. In response to a request by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), this study reports on the gap between American Indian and Alaska Native students and all other students on state achievement tests beginning in 2003/04, shortly after implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). It describes achievement patterns for grade 8 American Indian and Alaska Native students and all other grade 8 students between 2003/04 and 2006/07, focusing on student proficiency in reading and math on state assessments in 26 states serving large populations of American Indian and Alaska Native students. Staff at eight regional educational laboratories collected data on statewide assessment results, number of students tested, and annual measurable objectives for states with grade 8 state assessment data for 2003/04 (20 CCSSO network states and 6 other states that served at least 4,000 American Indian and Alaska Native students). Using annual measurable objectives, the researchers analyzed proficiency rates in each subject against NCLB goals by state. Proficiency rates were graphically arrayed for each state and subject across the four years to show patterns in the achievement gaps between American Indian and Alaska Native students and other students. This revealed changes in the performance of these students relative to all other students and to the annual measurable objective. Results indicate that in most states both American Indian and Alaska Native students and all other students experienced achievement gains across the study period. Although achievement gaps were generally found to persist, the American Indian and Alaska Native students were at least keeping pace by increasing in achievement along with all other students. The majority of states with three or four years of continuous data saw an increase in the proficiency rates of American Indian and Alaska Native students in both reading and math, with either a decrease in their performance deficit or, in states where their performance was above that of other groups, an increase in their performance lead over other students.”

Nelson–Barber, S., & Trumbull, E. (2015). The Common Core Initiative, education outcomes, and American Indian/Alaska Native Students: Observations and recommendations. San Francisco, CA: Center on Standards and Assessments Implementation. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED570362

From the ERIC abstract: “This monograph explores the ways in which large–scale school reform efforts play out in American Indian/Alaska Native communities and schools, starting from a historical and cultural perspective, and focusing on the translation of research into concrete steps leading to American Indian/Alaska Native student academic success and personal well–being.”

Ninneman, A. M., Deaton, J., & Francis–Begay, K. (2017). National Indian Education Study 2015: American Indian and Alaska Native students at grades 4 and 8 (NCES 2017–161). Jessup, MD: National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED572961

From the ERIC abstract: “The National Indian Education Study (NIES) is administered as part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) to allow more in-depth reporting on the achievement and experiences of American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN)1 students in grades 4 and 8. This report focuses primarily on two themes identified during the development of the NIES survey questionnaires: (1) To what extent are AI/AN culture and language part of the curricula?; and (2) To what extent are school resources available for improving AI/AN student achievement? The student survey questions selected for this report asked AI/AN students about the knowledge they had of their Native culture and language and their opportunities to learn more. Teacher survey questions asked teachers how they acquired and integrated culturally responsive materials, activities, and instruction into their lessons to enhance student learning. Questions from the school administrator survey asked school officials about how often members of the Native community participated in school events with students, parents, and teachers. This report is organized as follows: (1) The Introduction section includes information on sampling, participation, reporting, the NIES 2015 states, and the school types reported on in the survey question tables throughout this report; (2) The Survey Questionnaires section describes the purpose of the survey questions and the development process used to create them; (3) The Students and Native Culture section includes information about students’ exposure to and participation in their Native culture and their experiences with Native language at home and in school; (4) The Teacher Characteristics section examines the ways in which teachers acquired the knowledge and skills they need to teach AI/AN students, teachers’ self-identified race/ethnicity, and the culturally specific instructional practices used in reading and mathematics lessons; (5) The Schools and Community Engagement section examines AI/AN community member events that take place at school and the availability of good quality AI/AN books and other materials in school libraries or media centers; and (6) The Performance Results section provides information about the performance of AI/AN students at grades 4 and 8 in the nation and in the NIES states on NAEP reading and mathematics assessments from 2005 to 2015.”

Oakes, A., & Maday, T. (2009). Engaging Native American learners with rigor and cultural relevance. Washington, DC: Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED507588

From the ERIC abstract: “Currently, the federal government administers several programs that aim to address the ‘unique educational and culturally related academic needs’ (Title VII, Part A, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, 2002) of Native American students. What does this mean for today’s teachers and learners? Unfortunately, the drive to significantly raise student achievement can overshadow or take attention away from efforts to make education more relevant and engaging for Native American students. Fortunately, growing evidence shows that academic rigor and culturally relevant practices are mutually compatible. This Issue Brief identifies strategies that foster Native American student engagement and improved academic achievement. The authors begin by examining the distribution of Native students and then we explore three areas that are identified in the literature as promising strategies for improving educational outcomes for Native students: (1) Instructional practices; (2) Curriculum content; and (3) School climate.”

Powers, K., Potthoff, S. J., Bearinger, L. H., & Resnick, M. D. (2003). Does cultural programming improve educational outcomes for American Indian youth? Journal of American Indian Education, 42(2), 17–49. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ673686

From the ERIC abstract: “A study examined the influence of cultural programming on American Indian students’ school outcomes. Structural equation modeling was used to analyze survey data from 240 urban American Indian students aged 9-18. Cultural programming moderately, and largely indirectly, influenced student outcomes. The strongest predictors of school success were supportive personnel and safe, drug–free environments.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full–text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Powers, K. (2005). Promoting school achievement among American Indian students throughout the school years. Childhood Education, 81(6), 338–342. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ726558

From the ERIC abstract: “American Indian students as a population are not achieving high academic standards. Yet school failure appears to be acquired rather than inherent at the onset of schooling. Many researchers have reported that American Indian children function at an average range academically until the 4th grade; but by 10th grade, however, they are, on average, three years behind their non–Native peers (Hornett, 1990; Rampaul, Singh, & Didyk, 1984; Safran, Safran, & Pirozak, 1994). The reasons for this ‘crossover’ effect are not clear, although a combination of school, family, and student characteristics most likely is at work. In this article, the author examines strategies to uplift the academic performance of American Indian students.“

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full–text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Van Ryzin, M. J., Vincent, C. G., & Hoover, J. (2016). Initial exploration of a construct representing Native Language and Culture (NLC) in elementary and middle school instruction. Journal of American Indian Education, 55(1), 74–101. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED577130

From the ERIC abstract: “Students from American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) backgrounds have typically experienced poor academic and behavioral outcomes. In response, the educational community has recommended that teachers integrate Native Language and Culture (NLC) into instruction to create a welcoming and culturally relevant classroom environment. However, translating this recommendation into practice has been challenging. In this study, we take the first steps toward a formal exploration of the effects of NLC on AI/AN performance by attempting to define a scientifically defensible set of variables that can measure the degree to which teachers and schools make use of NLC in instruction. We used data collected by the National Indian Education Study (NIES) in 2009 and 2011, and conducted exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses with the Student, Teacher, and School (Administrator) Surveys. Contrary to expectations, we found that use of NLC in the classroom was a multidimensional construct: student perceptions differentiated between media–based and live contact; teacher perceptions included both preparation and teaching activities; and, administrator reports included both instructional practices and access to local resources. Implications for further research are discussed.”

Vincent, C., Tobin, T., & Van Ryzin, M. (2017). Implementing instructional practices to improve American Indian and Alaska Native students’ reading outcomes: An exploration of patterns across teacher, classroom, and school characteristics. Journal of Teacher Education, 68(5), 435–450. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1158825

From the ERIC abstract: “The Native Community strongly recommends integrating Native language and culture (NLC) into reading instruction to improve outcomes for American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) students. However, little is known about the extent to which recommended practices are used and what might facilitate their implementation. The National Indian Education Study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education surveys teachers of AI/AN students on their instructional practices. This descriptive study builds on previous analysis of survey data, which identified measurable dimensions of NLC in instruction. We now examine (a) the extent to which teachers implement these dimensions and (b) what teacher, classroom, and schoolwide characteristics facilitate implementation. Outcomes suggest that the recommended practices are rarely implemented, and that AI/AN teachers speaking Native language(s) and teaching in classrooms with high AI/AN enrollment located in schools employing AI/AN teachers and staff implement the recommended practices more often. We discuss implications for teacher education and support.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Wilcox, K. C. (2015). “Not at the expense of their culture”: Graduating Native American youth from high school. High School Journal, 98(4), 337–352. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1063978

From the ERIC abstract: “What kinds of challenges do educators face in increasing Native American high school graduation rates, and what kinds of adaptations to a traditional high school are understood as necessary to achieve this outcome? This case study explored these questions as part of a larger multiple case study that investigated practices and processes related to high school graduation rates. It focused on educators’ attempts to increase Native American student graduation rates in a high school with typical gaps in graduation rates between Native American students and white students. Data collected included teacher and administrator interviews and documentary evidence. Framed by socioecological theory that focuses on relationships between district, school, and classroom processes and practices, study findings revealed that adaptations to improve Native youth graduation rates included (1) offering personally-relevant, real–world, experiential, and interdisciplinary learning experiences aligned to students’ own learning goals; (2) adapting school schedules to students’ lives outside of school; (3) prioritizing developing students’ sense of worth in contributing to their communities and societies; (4) providing flexibility regarding absences, (5) offering effective supports that emphasize connecting to an adult; and (6) partnering with families and other community members. Implications for future research and practice are discussed in light of the findings.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full–text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Additional Organizations to Consult

Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) – https://www.bie.edu

From the website: “BIE’s mission is to provide quality education opportunities from early childhood through life in accordance with a tribe’s needs for cultural and economic well-being, in keeping with the wide diversity of Indian tribes and Alaska Native villages as distinct cultural and governmental entities. Further, the BIE is to manifest consideration of the whole person by taking into account the spiritual, mental, physical, and cultural aspects of the individual within his or her family and tribal or village context.”

National Indian Education Association – http://www.niea.org/our-story/

From the website: “The National Indian Education Association (NIEA) was formed in 1970, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, by Native educators who were anxious to find solutions to improve the education system for Native children. The NIEA Convention was established to mark the beginning of a national forum for sharing and developing ideas, and influencing federal policy.

NIEA adheres to the organization’s founding principles: 1) to bring Native educators together to explore ways to improve schools and the schooling of Native children; 2) to promote the maintenance and continued development of Native languages and cultures; and 3) to develop and implement strategies for influencing local, state, and federal policy and policymakers.”

Methods

Keywords and Search Strings

The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • descriptor:“academic achievement” descriptor:“American Indian education”

  • American Indians

  • descriptor:“attendance” descriptor:“American Indians”

  • descriptor:“graduation rate” descriptor:“American Indians”

  • “National Indian Education Study”

Databases and Search Engines

We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of more than 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Additionally, we searched IES and Google Scholar.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the publication: References and resources published over the last 15 years, from 2002 to present, were include in the search and review.

  • Search priorities of reference sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations.

  • Methodology: We used the following methodological priorities/considerations in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types—randomized control trials, quasi-experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, and so forth, generally in this order, (b) target population, samples (e.g., representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected), study duration, and so forth, and (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, and so forth.
This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Midwest Region (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL Midwest) at American Institutes for Research. This memorandum was prepared by REL Midwest under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0007, administered by American Institutes for Research. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.