American Indians/Alaska Natives: Education Issues
The AIAN community faces educational issues similar to other minority groups, including the need for adequate funding for schools serving minority and disadvantaged students, as well as other issues with a special impact on the community:
- Student achievement gaps need to be aggressively addressed. For example, while 71 percent of AIANs age 25 or older had a high school diploma or more in the 2000 census, only 11 percent had a bachelor's degree or more, compared to 27 percent of Whites.
- There is an increasing need for quality teachers in Indian schools. Due to rural isolation, low teacher salaries, high poverty, and differences in languages and cultures, it is difficult to recruit and retain quality teachers in Indian schools. Further, the need for special education teachers is growing since representation of AIAN students in special education is at 18 percent, almost double the rest of the student population at 10 percent.
- The contributions of AIANs in American history and contemporary society have not been adequately recognized in public school curriculums. Too few students know, for instance, that the U.S. Constitution was developed in part upon concepts of democracy gained from the League of the Iroquois. Misconceptions about the "discovery of America by Columbus" do not recognize the pre-existance of sophisticated Indian nations. In addition, the "land bridge" theory of migration perpetuates the myth that all people immigrated to this continent. More needs to be taught about the value and importance of AIAN history and culture.
- Native schools continue to be plagued by safety concerns, with high suspension and expulsion rates, and the highest percentage of all groups to report injury with weapons and fights on school grounds.