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St. Paul To Create Native American Magnet School

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The St. Paul school board has unanimously approved a plan to improve instruction for Native Americans by creating a magnet school with an Indian focus and strengthening other services for such pupils.

The new school will offer courses in Native-American languages, culture, and history. It will be patterned after a similar institution run by the Buffalo public system, officials said.

The K-8 facility will have to attract enough white students to avoid violating state guidelines, the officials noted. No more than 55 percent of its enrollment will be allowed to be Native Americans and other minority students.

The board's action came during a growing debate in Minnesota about ways to improve education for Na4tive-American students, whose high dropout rates and low standardized-test scores worry both school and tribal officials.

A special state commission last year recommended the creation of an autonomous Indian school district governed by tribal councils. The legislature is expected to take up the issue during its current session. (See Education Week, Feb. 17, 1988.)

'Failing To Reach Them'

"I believe our program would complement" any state action, said Eleanor Weber, a St. Paul school-board member who also served on the state Indian School Council. "It would give Indian parents more choices.''

"It's pretty obvious that many of our Indian students are less successful in school than they should be, or could be," she said. "Somehow we're failing to reach them."

The board's proposals, which did not contain cost estimates, also include:

Offering Indian language and culture courses at one high school, to provide continuity for the magnet-school students.

Bolstering the stock of materials dealing with Indian heritage in school libraries.

Increasing efforts to identify and remediate at-risk Indian students.

Recruiting additional Native-American staff members.

Encouraging more Indian parents to become involved with the schools.

Selecting textbooks that accurately depict Indian history and culture.--ws

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