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National Center for Education Statistics

Data on the High School Coursetaking of American Indian and Alaska Native Students

Understanding the racial/ethnic equity of educational experiences is a vital objective. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) High School Transcript Study (HSTS) collects and analyzes transcripts from a nationally representative sample of America’s public and private high school graduates, including information about the coursetaking of students by race/ethnicity.

In 2019, NCES collected and coded high school transcript data from graduates who participated in the grade 12 NAEP assessments. The participants included American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) students as well as students from other racial/ethnic groups. The main HSTS 2019 results do not include AI/AN findings because the sample sizes for AI/AN students in earlier collection periods were too small to report NAEP performance linked to coursetaking measures. Therefore, this blog post serves to highlight available AI/AN data. Find more information about NAEP's race/ethnicity categories and trends.
 

About HSTS 2019

The 2019 collection is the eighth wave of the study, which was last conducted in 2009 and first conducted in 1987. Data from 1990, 2000, 2009, and 2019—representing approximately decade-long spans—are discussed here. Data from HSTS cover prepandemic school years.
 

How many credits did AI/AN graduates earn?

For all racial/ethnic groups, the average number of Carnegie credits AI/AN graduates earned in 2019 was higher than in 2009 and earlier decades (figure 1). AI/AN graduates earned 27.4 credits on average in 2019, an increase from 23.0 credits in 1990. However, AI/AN graduates earned fewer overall credits in 2019 than did Asian/Pacific Islander, Black, and White graduates, a pattern consistent with prior decades.


Figure 1. Average total Carnegie credits earned by high school graduates, by student race/ethnicity: Selected years, 1990 through 2019 

[click to enlarge image]

Horizontal bar chart showing average total Carnegie credits earned by high school graduates by student race/ethnicity in selected years from 1990 through 2019.

* Significantly different (p < .05) from American Indian/Alaska Native group in the given year.                                                              
+ Significantly different (p < .05) from 2019 within racial/ethnic group.                                                   
NOTE: Race categories exclude Hispanic origin. Black includes African American, Hispanic includes Latino, and Pacific Islander includes Native Hawaiian.                                                               
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) High School Transcript Study, various years, 1990 to 2019.


In 2019, the smaller number of total credits earned by AI/AN graduates—compared with graduates in other racial/ethnic groups—was driven by the smaller number of academic credits earned. On average, AI/AN graduates earned about 1 to 3 academic credits less (19.3 credits) than graduates in other racial/ethnic groups (e.g., 22.2 for Asian/Pacific Islander graduates and 20.6 for Hispanic graduates) (figure 2). In contrast, AI/AN graduates earned more or a similar number of credits in career and technical education (CTE) (3.6 credits) and other courses (4.5 credits) compared with graduates in other racial/ethnic groups.


Figure 2. Average Carnegie credits earned by high school graduates in academic, career and technical education (CTE), and other courses, by student race/ethnicity: 2019

[click to enlarge image]

Horizontal bar chart showing average Carnegie credits earned by high school graduates in academic, career and technical education (CTE), and other courses by student race/ethnicity in 2019

* Significantly different (p < .05) from American Indian/Alaska Native group.                                                                            
NOTE: Race categories exclude Hispanic origin. Black includes African American, Hispanic includes Latino, and Pacific Islander includes Native Hawaiian.                                                                                                                                                            
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) High School Transcript Study, 2019.         
  



What was the grade point average (GPA) of AI/AN graduates?

As with credits earned, GPA has been generally trending upward since 1990. AI/AN graduates had an average GPA of 2.54 in 1990 and an average GPA of 3.02 in 2019 (figure 3). Unlike with credits earned, however, the average GPA for AI/AN graduates was between the GPA of graduates in other racial/ethnic groups in 2019: it was lower than the GPAs for Asian/Pacific Islander and White graduates and higher than the GPAs for Black and Hispanic graduates.


Figure 3. Average overall grade point average (GPA) earned by high school graduates, by student race/ethnicity: Selected years, 1990 through 2019

[click to enlarge image]

Horizontal bar chart showing average overall grade point average (GPA) earned by high school graduates by student race/ethnicity in selected years from 1990 through 2019.

* Significantly different (p < .05) from American Indian/Alaska Native group in the given year.                                            
+ Significantly different (p < .05) from 2019 within racial/ethnic group.                                                                                       
NOTE: Race categories exclude Hispanic origin. Black includes African American, Hispanic includes Latino, and Pacific Islander includes Native Hawaiian.                                                                                                                                                            
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) High School Transcript Study, various years, 1990 to 2019.



What curriculum level did AI/AN graduates reach?

HSTS uses curriculum levels to measure the rigor of high school graduates’ coursework as a potential indicator of college preparedness. There are three curriculum levels: standard, midlevel, and rigorous. Students who did not meet the requirements for a standard curriculum are considered to have a “below standard” curriculum.

Reflecting the smaller numbers of academic credits earned by AI/AN graduates, as described above, a lower percentage of AI/AN graduates reached the rigorous level (the highest level): only 5 percent of AI/AN graduates had completed a rigorous curriculum in 2019, compared with 10 percent of Hispanic, 13 percent of White, and 28 percent of Asian/Pacific Islander graduates (table 1). Similarly, a lower percentage of AI/AN graduates completed a midlevel curriculum than did White, Black, or Hispanic graduates. At the standard and below-standard levels, therefore, AI/AN graduates were overrepresented relative to most other groups.


Table 1. Percentage distribution of high school graduates across earned curriculum levels, by student race/ethnicity: 2019

Table showing the percentage distribution of high school graduates across earned curriculum levels (below standard, standard, midlevel, and rigorous) by student race/ethnicity in 2019.

* Significantly different (p < .05) from American Indian/Alaska Native group.
NOTE: Details may not sum to total due to rounding. A graduate who achieves the standard curriculum earned at least four Carnegie credits of English and three Carnegie credits each of social studies, mathematics, and science. A graduate who achieves a midlevel curriculum earned at least four Carnegie credits in English, three Carnegie credits in mathematics (including credits in algebra and geometry), three Carnegie credits in science (including credits in two among the subjects of biology, chemistry, and physics), three Carnegie credits in social studies, and one Carnegie credit in world languages. A graduate who achieves a rigorous curriculum earned at least four Carnegie credits in English, four Carnegie credits in mathematics (including credits in precalculus or calculus), three Carnegie credits in science (including credits in all three subjects of biology, chemistry, and physics), three Carnegie credits in social studies, and three Carnegie credits in world languages. Graduates with curriculum that do not meet the requirements for the standard level are considered as “Below standard.” Race categories exclude Hispanic origin. Black includes African American, Hispanic includes Latino, and Pacific Islander includes Native Hawaiian.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) High School Transcript Study, 2019.


Explore the HSTS 2019 website to learn more about the study, including how courses are classified, grade point average is calculated, and race/ethnicity categories have changed over time. Be sure to follow NCES on XFacebookLinkedIn, and YouTube and subscribe to the NCES News Flash to stay informed about future HSTS data and resources.

 

By Ben Dalton, RTI International, and Robert Perkins, Westat