Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

White House: Native American Education Needs Boost ; Boost: Report Shows Few Schools Incorporate Cultures

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

White House: Native American Education Needs Boost ; Boost: Report Shows Few Schools Incorporate Cultures

Article excerpt

Native American education and the well-being of Native American children are in "a state of emergency," the White House said.

In a report released last month, the White House warned poverty rates among Native American youth remain significantly higher than the national average -- and educational outcomes significantly lower.

"This crisis has grave consequences for Native nations, who need an educated citizenry to lead their governments, develop reservation economies, contribute to the social well-being of Native communities, and sustain Indian cultures," the report said.

Nationwide, 34 percent of American Indian or Alaska Native children live in poverty, compared to a national child poverty rate of 21 percent.

"No, they're not shocking to me," Prairie Band Potawatomi chairperson Liana Onnen said of the statistics.

Onnen attended the annual White House Tribal Nations Conference last month to discuss with Cabinet members and other officials issues of concern to Native American leaders.

"I think if you're a Native American today and you are engaged," she said, "you know about these issues."

In terms of educational outcomes for Native Americans:

- 13 percent have four-year college degrees or higher, compared to 29 percent of Americans.

- Among fourth-graders, a 2011 federal testing sample found 22 percent of Native American children were proficient in math, compared to 40 percent of all fourth-graders.

- Less than half of all Native American high-schoolers attend schools with adequate math and science offerings.

- Native Americans are less likely than Hispanic, African- American or white students to earn college credit while in high school, or even to attend a high school that offers such options.

The report emphasized the importance of including American Indian culture in school curriculums to engage students and parents, pointing to research indicating cultural relevance can boost the educational outcomes and self-confidence of children. To that end, it recommends bolstering the role of tribes in operating schools, developing programs and curriculums.

"Few schools adequately incorporate Native cultures into the curriculum," the report said.

That has concerned Steve Cadue, a former Kickapoo chairman and current member of the Kansas Historical Foundation board of directors, for a long time. …

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