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Report card shows Native students falling behind
MONDAY, JUNE 23, 2003

The first assessment of the nation's public school system since the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act showed mixed results for American Indian and Alaska Native students.

Reading scores of American Indians and Alaska Natives trailed those of Whites and Asians at all grade levels, according to the Department of Education. But Natives performed better than African-American and Hispanic students, the department's National Center for Education Statistics reported.

Released last week, the 2002 Nation's Report Card provides a snapshot of 4th, 8th, and 12th grade students. Nearly 500,000 American Indians and Alaska Natives attend public schools, according to government statistics, a figure that includes about 50,000 in the Bureau of Indian Affairs system.

From 1992 to 2002, the national data for Native students was often incomplete. Results for the years 1992 and 1998 are unreported due to a limited sample size. Last year's test scores for 12th graders were omitted for similar reasons.

The information available shows that reading scores for American Indians and Alaska Natives has not improved or fallen dramatically nationwide. The average score for Native students in 4th grade, for example, was 250 last year, compared to 248 in 1994. The highest possible score is 500.

A state-by-state analysis yielded similar results. In Montana, for example, where 9 percent of the students are Native American, there was little change in reading scores.

Only a handful of states provided data for their Indian student population. The information, however, shows Native students falling behind their White counterparts.

In New Mexico, for example, Native American 4th-graders were twice as likely to be "below basic" than White students. In Arizona, 82 percent of Native 4th-graders were "below basic," compared to just 33 percent of White students.

Results like these worry Victoria Vasques, the director of the department's Office of Indian Education. Speaking to tribal educators at the National Congress of American Indians last week, she said government reports have shown similar statistics dating back 20 years. "If you read that book today," she said of one study, "it still says pretty much what is happening today."

With the No Child Left Behind Act, signed into law in February 2002, Vasques said the Bush administration wants to make progress. Through greater accountability, flexibility, parental choice and better research and data, she said improvements can be made.

"[Education Secretary Paige] knows what's failing," she told attendees. "Let's share what's working."

Get the Report:
Executive Summary | The Nation's Report Card: Reading 2002 | State Reading 2002 Reports

Relevant Links:
Reading 2002, National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/reading/results2002
Office of Indian Education, Department of Education - http://www.ed.gov/offices/OESE/oie/index.html

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