School & District Management

Achievement, Grad Rate Among Tribal Students of Concern in Oregon

By Diette Courrégé Casey — February 04, 2014 2 min read
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Just 55 percent of students from seven of Oregon’s nine federally recognized tribes graduated on-time in 2011, compared to 72 percent of all Oregon students.

That’s one of the troubling statistics in a new report that was intended to assess the state of education for students in the state’s tribes. Oregon has the 10th largest percentage of Native American residents, and tribal students across the country often live in rural communities.

“This analysis is a real wake-up call for everyone in Oregon, but I don’t think the troubling outcomes are unique to our state,” said Sue Hildick, president of Chalkboard Project, in a statement. “I believe it would be incredibly valuable for advocates in other states with large Native American populations to undertake a similar review. We fully expect this report to open up important conversations and lead toward community-driven solutions.”

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, which commissioend ECONorthwest to do the report.

The Chalkboard Project said the study is a first-of-its-kind analysis that allows the performance of students in Oregon’s federally recognized tribes to be compared with other Oregon students.

Two of the state’s nine tribes didn’t participate. The study found nearly half of the analyzed tribal students attend rural schools, and that they fared worse on state exams than their other tribal peers.

Some of the other findings include:

  • Seventy-five percent of Oregon tribal students are low-income;
  • Tribal students missed 10 percent more school than their peers, and one-third of tribal students were chronically absent in 2011-12;
  • Nearly one-third of tribal students are in schools ranked at the bottom 15 percent of the state, compared to 6.6 percent of all Oregon students;
  • Tribal students pass Oregon’s state math and reading assessments at rates 13 to 20 percentage points below the statewide average.

Those statistics reflect what’s happening across the country. Native American students lag most every other racial and ethnic subgroup. Education Week published a special package last year to explore those issues.

This report struggled to identify students who are members of Oregon tribes. Eight percent of students in Oregon’s tribes were not identified as American Indian/Alaskan Native in the Oregon Department of Education’s records. The report said neither the tribes nor the state can evaluate Oregon tribal students’ outcomes accurately.

The project plans to release this spring a full report and recommendations to improve the performance of Oregon’s tribal students. Three general recommendations in this report were: more transparent reporting of outcomes for students; policies that focus on strengthening student engagement, reducing absenteeism, and boosting high school graduation rates; and, tribes need to provide better information about postsecondary options to high school graduates.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Rural Education blog.