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National Indian Education Study:
Part II: The Educational Experiences of Fourth- and Eighth-Grade American Indian and Alaska Native Students

October 2006

Authors: Frances B. Stancavage, Julia H. Mitchell, Victor Bandeira de Mello, Freya E. Gaertner, Angeline K. Spain, and Michelle L. Rahal

Download sections of the report (or the complete report) in a PDF file for viewing and printing.


Executive Summary

AI/AN students
Schools serving AI/AN students
Teachers serving AI/AN students
AI/AN culture and language in the curriculum

This report presents results from a national survey, conducted in 2005, that examined the educational experiences of American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) students in grades 4 and 8, with particular emphasis on the integration of native language and culture into school and classroom activities. Students, teachers, and school principals all participated in the survey, which constituted Part II of the National Indian Education Study (NIES). NIES was a two-part study conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), with the support of the Office of Indian Education (OIE), for the U.S. Department of Education. Part I of NIES collected information on the academic performance of AI/AN students, as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

AI/AN students represent about 1 percent of the total student population in the United States. In 2005, this represented approximately 46,000 students at grade 4 and 45,000 at grade 8 who were identified as AI/AN in official school records. A nationally representative sample of about 14,500 of these students (combined grades 4 and 8 in reading and mathematics) was selected to participate in NIES Part I. A smaller sample of those students (approximately 5,600) was selected to participate in NIES Part II. The Part I as well as the Part II samples included students attending public, private, and Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) schools. The NIES Part II teacher sample was made up of the mathematics and reading/language arts teachers of the sampled students, while the school principal sample consisted of the principals at the schools these students attended. Questionnaires for the Part II survey were developed with the guidance of a technical review panel assembled to advise NIES.

This report describes important aspects of the educational experiences of AI/AN students in grades 4 and 8. Although the central focus of the report is AI/AN students, information is also provided about non-AI/AN students, where available, so that the reader can compare the characteristics of AI/AN students with their peers from different backgrounds. The source of the information on non-AI/AN students is NAEP, which included a survey component to collect limited demographic information about all students who participated in 2005. The NAEP survey, however, did not collect information on the role of AI/AN culture or language in education—topics which are the central focus of NIES. The NIES Part II report also provides comparisons between AI/AN students at high density and low density schools. High density schools are defined by the OIE as schools in which at least 25 percent of the students are American Indian or Alaska Native. All other schools are classified as low density.

All comparisons are based on statistical tests of significance that used Student’s t statistics. Only differences that have been determined to be statistically significant at the .05 level after controlling for multiple comparisons are discussed in this report.

Findings are presented in four broad areas: characteristics of AI/AN students, their schools, their teachers, and their curriculum. The Technical Notes section provides information about sampling, interpreting statistical significance, and other technical features. The Data Appendix provides tables that support the findings provided in this report.

AI/AN students

  • More than one-half of American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) students at both grades 4 and 8 were located in the Mountain or South Central regions of the country. By comparison, over one-half of non-AI/AN students at each grade level were located in the Atlantic and North Central regions, and non-AI/AN students were relatively infrequent in the regions where AI/AN students are concentrated. (Definitions of regions, community types, and other classification terms used in the Executive Summary are given in the Technical Notes.)
  • AI/AN students were about equally divided between schools located in small towns/rural communities and schools in more urban areas (i.e., urban fringe/large town and central city). Non-AI/AN students, in comparison, were more concentrated at schools in urban fringe communities/large towns and central cities; about three-quarters of non-AI/AN students attended schools in such localities.
  • Among AI/AN students, 50 percent at grade 4 and 45 percent at grade 8 attended high density schools. Compared to fourth-grade AI/AN students at low density schools, more fourth-grade students at high density schools were located in the Mountain or South Central regions and in small town/rural communities. At eighth grade, AI/AN students at high density schools were more concentrated in the Mountain region and in small town/rural communities.
  • More than 60 percent of AI/AN students at each grade level qualified for free or reduced-price school lunch under the National School Lunch Program. This was greater than in the non-AI/AN population, where 41 percent of fourth-grade students and 36 percent of eighth-grade students qualified. Also, among AI/AN students, more students at high density schools than at low density schools qualified.
  • A higher percentage of AI/AN students than non-AI/AN students was classified as English language learners (ELL) by their schools. Fourteen percent of AI/AN students in grade 4 and 13 percent in grade 8 held this classification. Moreover, for AI/AN students attending high density schools, the ELL classification rates were 26 percent at grade 4 and 24 percent at grade 8, significantly higher than the rates at low density schools.
  • Seventeen percent of AI/AN students in grade 4 and 15 percent in grade 8 were classified by their schools as students with disabilities (SD). A smaller percentage of non-AI/AN students—9 percent at each grade level—was classified as SD. Differences by school density were also apparent at grade 4; at this grade level, a higher percentage of AI/AN students at low density schools than at high density schools was SD.
  • About two-thirds of the AI/AN students in grade 4 and about three-quarters of the AI/AN students in grade 8 said they would probably go to college. One percent of the AI/AN students at each grade level thought that they probably would not graduate from high school. Some students at each grade (28 percent at grade 4 and 10 percent at grade 8) reported that they did not know their educational goals.

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Schools serving AI/AN students

  • About one-third of American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) students at each grade level attended schools where few other students were AI/AN. That is, they attended schools where the percentage of AI/AN students was 5 percent or less. At the other end of the spectrum, about one-quarter of AI/AN students attended schools where the percentage of AI/AN students was greater than 75 percent.
  • Sixty percent of AI/AN students in grade 4 and 54 percent of AI/AN students in grade 8 attended schools where more than 50 percent of the student body was eligible for free or reduced-price school lunch. Among non-AI/AN students, 43 percent in grade 4 and 34 percent in grade 8 attended schools with such high concentrations of students eligible for free or reduced-price school lunch. Higher percentages of AI/AN students attending high density schools (49 percent at grade 4 and 38 percent at grade 8) than low density schools (15 percent at grade 4 and 13 percent at grade 8) were at schools where more than 75 percent of the student body was eligible for free or reduced-price school lunch.
  • The reported involvement of tribal or village representatives in school-related activities varied by high density and low density schools. At high density schools, principals reported widespread involvement of tribal or village representatives in many school-related activities such as visiting the school to share native traditions and cultures; attending cultural, sporting, or social events; and helping in the classroom or school. For example, 93 percent of grade 4 students and 75 percent of grade 8 students attended high density schools where tribal or village representatives visited to share native traditions and cultures.
  • Fifty-two percent of grade 4 AI/AN students and 63 percent of grade 8 AI/AN students attended schools in which few of the teaching staff (0 to 5 percent) were identified as AI/AN. In high density schools, the presence of AI/AN faculty was greater compared to low density schools. Twenty-five percent of grade 4 AI/AN students and 5 percent of grade 8 AI/AN students attended high density schools where more than three-quarters (76 to 100 percent) of the teachers were identified as AI/AN.
  • Thirty-seven percent of grade 4 AI/AN students and 38 percent of grade 8 AI/AN students attended schools where they had access to some sort of instruction in their own native languages. Extracurricular activities focusing on native culture were also available to 51 percent of grade 4 students and 38 percent of grade 8 students. More AI/AN students at high density schools than at low density schools had access to these services.

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Teachers serving AI/AN students

  • Eighty-nine percent of grade 4 American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) students were taught by teachers with regular or advanced teaching certificates. At grade 8, the percentages of AI/AN students whose teachers had regular or advanced teaching certificates were 78 percent for mathematics and 83 percent for reading/language arts. There were no significant differences in teacher certification between AI/AN and non-AI/AN students or between AI/AN students at high density and low density schools.
  • Three-quarters of AI/AN students at grade 4 had teachers whose undergraduate majors were in education. More grade 4 AI/AN students than non-AI/AN students, and more grade 4 AI/AN students at high density schools than at low density schools, had teachers with education majors.
  • At eighth grade, 36 percent of AI/AN students had mathematics teachers, and 52 percent had reading/language arts teachers, whose undergraduate majors aligned with their teaching specialization. Compared to AI/AN students, the percentage of non-AI/AN students at grade 8 whose teachers reported these types of majors was significantly higher for mathematics (45 percent) but not for reading (55 percent). There were no significant differences in the majors reported by the teachers of grade 8 AI/AN students at high density and low density schools.
  • Eighty-one percent of AI/AN students at grade 4 were taught by teachers with at least 5 years of total teaching experience. At eighth grade, 72 percent had mathematics teachers, and 74 percent had reading/language arts teachers, with this amount of total teaching experience.
  • At eighth grade, 36 percent of AI/AN students had mathematics teachers and 33 percent had reading/language arts teachers who had fewer than 5 years of teaching experience in their discipline. More AI/AN students at high density schools than at low density schools had mathematics teachers with less than 5 years experience teaching in their discipline.
  • Forty percent of AI/AN students at grade 4 were being instructed by teachers who had spent fewer than 5 years at their current school. At grade 8, the corresponding percentages were 53 percent for mathematics teachers and 49 percent for reading/language arts teachers.
  • Twenty-eight percent of grade 4 AI/AN students had teachers who spoke and understood, at least to some extent, tribal or village languages spoken by the local AI/AN community. At grade 8, the corresponding percentages were 25 percent for mathematics teachers and 23 percent for reading/language arts teachers. For all grades and subject areas, more AI/AN students at high density schools than at low density schools had teachers with these capabilities.

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AI/AN culture and language in the curriculum

  • Twenty-one percent of American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) students at grade 4 had teachers who reported integrating an AI/AN perspective into their curriculum either daily or extensively. Ten percent of AI/AN students at grade 8 had mathematics teachers who reported daily or extensive use of an AI/AN perspective, while 16 percent had reading/language arts teachers who did the same. More AI/AN students at high density schools than at low density schools had teachers who reported this level of integration.
  • The reported use of culturally relevant mathematics and language arts activities was more common in high density schools than in low density schools. For example, 29 percent of grade 4 AI/AN students and 45 percent of grade 8 AI/AN students at high density schools had teachers who reported using mathematics problems that were reflective of AI/AN homes and communities at least once a month, compared to 5 percent and 18 percent, respectively, at low density schools. Correspondingly, 50 percent of grade 4 AI/AN students and 40 percent of grade 8 AI/AN students at high density schools had teachers who reported assigning literature with AI/AN themes at least once a month, compared to 22 percent and 14 percent, respectively, at low density schools.
  • The use of the students’ AI/AN languages in mathematics or reading/language arts instruction was infrequent. The use of these languages, including the occasional use of isolated words or phrases, was reported by teachers of only small percentages of AI/AN students. For example, 15 percent of grade 4 students and 12 percent of grade 8 students had teachers who reported such use in reading/language arts. The percentage of AI/AN students at high density schools whose teachers reported AI/AN language use was higher than the percentage at low density schools.
  • About 90 percent of AI/AN students at grade 4 and about 80 percent of AI/AN students at grade 8 had teachers who reported using state content standards “a lot” in planning mathematics and reading/language arts lessons. A high percentage of AI/AN students (about 90 percent or greater) also had school principals who reported that state standards had “much influence” on their schools’ mathematics and reading/language arts curriculum.
  • Generally, the use of state or locally developed AI/AN content or cultural standards was reported more frequently by teachers of AI/AN students at high density schools than by teachers at low density schools. Twenty-three percent of grade 4 AI/AN students in high density schools had teachers who reported “some” or “a lot” of use of AI/AN content/cultural standards in mathematics, and 31 percent had teachers who reported “some” or “a lot” of use in reading/language arts. Among grade 8 AI/AN students in high density schools, 12 percent had mathematics teachers and 14 percent had reading/language arts teachers who reported using these standards “some” or “a lot.”

In summary, NIES Part II provided baseline information on many aspects of the educational experiences of AI/AN students. It is hoped that this information will help inform efforts to address the educational and culturally related academic needs of AI/AN students so that this diverse group can meet the same challenging state achievement standards as all other students.


The NIES Part I report describes the performance of American Indian and Alaska Native students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 2005 reading and mathematics assessments. Performance results from Part I will not be linked to the survey findings reported here. Such associations will be examined in future data collections scheduled for 2007.

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Download sections of the report (or the complete report) in a PDF file for viewing and printing:

  • PDF PDF 1 of 3 contains:
    Executive Summary
    Acknowledgments
    Contents
    Chapter 1: Introduction
    Chapter 2: Description of American Indian/Alaska Native Students
    -also includes front matter
    (1038K PDF)

  • PDF PDF 2 of 3 contains:
    Chapter 3: Schools That Serve American Indian/Alaska Native Students
    Chapter 4: Teachers Who Serve American Indian/Alaska Native Students
    (873K PDF)

  • PDF PDF 3 of 3 contains:
    Chapter 5: American Indian/Alaska Native Culture and Language in the Curriculum
    References
    Technical Notes
    Data appendix
    (706K PDF)

  • PDF The complete The National Indian Education Study: Part II PDF (2605K PDF)

NCES 2007-454 Ordering information

Suggested Citation
Stancavage, F.B., Mitchell, J.H., Bandeira de Mello, V.P., Gaertner, F.E., Spain, A.K., and Rahal, M.L., (2006). National Indian Education Study: Part II: The Educational Experiences of Fourth- and Eighth-Grade American Indian and Alaska Native Students (NCES 2007–454). U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

For more information, see The National Indian Education Study in the Special Studies section of this website.

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Last updated 03 October 2006 (RH)

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National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education