Measuring the Achievement and Experiences of American Indian and Alaska Native Youth: National Indian Education Study 2015

In order to measure the progress of education in the United States, it is important to examine equity and growth for students from many different demographic groups. The educational experiences of American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) youth are of particular interest to educators and policymakers because of the prevalence of academic risk factors for this group. For example, the percentage of students served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 2013-14 was highest for AI/AN students,[1] and in 2013 a higher percentage of American Indian/Alaska Native 8th-grade students than of Hispanic, White, or Asian 8th-grade students were absent more than 10 days in the last month.[2]

Although NCES attempts to collect data from AI/AN students in all of our surveys, disaggregated data for this group are sometimes not reportable due to their relatively small population size. Therefore, data collections that specifically target this group of students can be particularly valuable in ensuring the educational research and policy community has the information they need. The National Indian Education Survey is one of the primary resources for data on AI/AN youth.

The National Indian Education Study (NIES) is administered as part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) to allow more in-depth reporting on the achievement and experiences of AI/AN students in grade 4 and 8. NIES provides data at the national level and for select states with relatively high percentages of American Indians and/or Alaska Natives.[3] It also provides data by the concentration of AI/AN students attending schools in three mutually exclusive categories: Low density public schools (less than 25 percent AI/AN);[4] High density public schools (more than 25 percent AI/AN);[5] and Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) schools.[6]

In a recently released report on the results of the 2015 NIES, differences in performance on the reading and mathematics assessments emerged across school type. In 2015, students in low density public schools had higher scores in both subjects than those in high density public or BIE schools, and scores for students in high density public schools were higher than for those in BIE schools. Additionally, there were some score differences over time. For example, at grade 8, average reading scores in 2015 for students in BIE schools were higher than scores in 2009 and 2007, but were not significantly different from scores in 2011 and 2005 (Figure 2).

The characteristics of students attending low density, high density, and BIE schools differed at both grades. For example, BIE schools had a significantly higher percentage of students who were English language learners (ELL) and eligible for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). Additionally, high density schools had a significantly higher percentage of ELL students and NSLP-eligible students than low density schools.

The report also explored to what extent AI/AN culture and language are part of the school curricula. AI/AN students in grades 4 and 8 reported that family members taught them the most about Native traditions. Differences by school type and density were observed in responses to other questions about the knowledge AI/AN students had of their family’s Native culture, the role AI/AN languages played in their lives, and their involvement in Native cultural ceremonies and gatherings in the community. For example, 28 percent of 4th-grade students in BIE schools reported they knew “a lot” about the history, traditions, or arts and crafts of their tribe compared to 22 percent of their AI/AN peers in high density schools, and 18 percent of those in low density schools. Similarly, 52 percent of 8th-grade students at BIE schools participated several times a year in ceremonies and gatherings of their AI/AN tribe or group, compared to 28 percent of their peers at high density public schools, and 20 percent of their peers at low density public schools.

If you’re interested in learning more about NIES, including what the study means for American Indian and Alaska Native students and communities, you can view the video below. Access the compete report and find out more about the study here: https://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/nies/