Equity & Diversity

Study: Language Is an Issue With Some Native American Dropouts

By Mary Ann Zehr — February 22, 2010 1 min read
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Language barriers are one factor contributing to the high dropout rate among American Indian and Alaska Native students, says a report released last week by the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles of the University of California, Los Angeles.

The report examined graduation-rate data from the seven states with the highest percentage of students who are American Indian and Alaska Native, as well as from five states in the Pacific and Northwestern regions of the United States. On average, fewer than half of the American Indian and Alaska Native students in those states graduated from high school. South Dakota had the lowest graduation rate for Native Americans of any of those states, with only 30 percent of such students graduating from high school.

The report cites research that shows that early acquisition of English and proficiency in students’ native languages as well as English are some of the factors that are associated with an increased likelihood of Native Americans’ staying in school.

It mentions research that shows a number of reasons other than language barriers that contribute to Native Americans’ dropping out of school. They include the poor quality of teacher-student relationships, a lack of parent support, boredom, poor attendance, student mobility, and a lack of interest in school.

I highlight here what the report says about language issues because, after all, this is a blog about the teaching of language. In some states, such as Alaska, New Mexico, and South Dakota, a large number of English-language learners are Native American students. Generally those students are dominant in English, but are still considered to need help in becoming proficient in English.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.