There are many reasons why Native American young people do not finish school. Most studies and reveal that the drop-out rate is high because:
- Too often Native American statistics are grouped in the “other” category and they do not receive the special attention needed to cause any meaningful intervention.
- Students find school uncomfortable and uncaring.
- There is a high level of distrust between students and teachers and parents and teachers.
- The motivation to succeed in school is clouded due to other issues facing Native Americans.
- The student is too far behind in credits and sees no way out.
- Lack of success in school.
- Too many suspensions and not enough time to catch up.
- Lack of poor reading, math and study skills.
- Lack of necessary parental support. The parents are often drop-outs themselves.
- Lack of culture in the school.
- Alcohol and drug issues.
- Teen pregnancy.
There are many good things happening in schools with large populations of Native students. Too often, however, the student has too many of the above factors going against him or her and they just become too overwhelming to deal with.
Why focus on dropout prevention: Minnesota Department of Education
The Minnesota Department has adopted the following case statements as to why the department has chosen to put energy and resources into dropout prevention:
- Millions of students leave school before high school graduation.
- Members of some demographic groups are at much higher risk of dropping out of school.
- When young people dropout of school they – and American society at large – face multiple negative consequences.
- In Minnesota the statewide graduation rate for 2004-2005 was 86.63 percent. This statistic approaches 90% but it masks the disparities between various populations of students. Percentages of students who graduate from school in four years are much lower for American Indian, Black and Hispanic students, as well as students of poverty, students with disabilities (especially students with emotional/behavioral disorders) and those who are English language learners.
So what can schools do?
It has been my experience that when schools adopt three principles and follow through with some meaningful action, positive things can happen. These three principles are:
- Immediate Intervention: As soon as a student is perceived to “not being able to make it” some intervention needs to take place—now. For example, if the student cannot read, the student needs to have direct instruction immediately until the student is at grade level.
- Unrelenting Persuasion: Students are at-risk to drop-out should be reminded why it is important to stay in school. This persuasion should be extended over a period of time and should not end until the student is considered not to be at-risk to drop-out.
- Using Effective Teaching Strategies. These 12 strategies were outlined for the reader on the first page concerning Native American Drop-outs on this webpage.