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NIEA Statement on Latest High School Graduation Rate Data: Another Sign That Native Education is in Crisis

For Immediate Release
Media and Policy Alert
January 24, 2013

Contact NIEA Communications
T: 202.544.7290
Social: @WereNIEA (Twitter)/NieaFanPage (Facebook)

LEADING EDUCATION ADVOCATe’s Statement about latest

high school graduation rate data: Another sign that

native education is in crisis


Washington, DC – More still needs to be done to ensure that Native children are provided the high-quality teaching and comprehensive culturally based curriculum they need to graduate from high school. This is the conclusion National Indian Education Association has reached from its analysis of graduation rate data released this week by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics.

The data, which details 2009-2010 Four-Year Averaged Freshmen Graduation Rate for public schools in states and the District of Columbia, does offer some positive news. The graduation rate for American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) high school students was 69 percent in 2009-2010, four points higher than in the previous year. [The AFGR doesn’t count graduation rates for students in schools operated and overseen by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Education; the report itself doesn’t break out AFGR for Native Hawaiian students.] At the same time, far too many Native students are being left behind in an age in which knowledge is critical to bringing prosperity to Native communities and preserving our cultures.

  • Fourteen states – Alaska, Idaho, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming – had graduation rates for AI/AN students of 60 percent or lower. 
  • Nine states – Delaware, Georgia, Maine, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia – had graduation rates for AI/AN students of 80 percent or greater.
  • Wyoming’s graduation rate for AI/AN students was the lowest in the nation. Just 37.6 percent of Native students graduated in 2009-2010.  Nevada and South Dakota (where NIEA is holding its 44th Annual Convention and Trade Show) were the next-lowest, with graduation rates of 44.3 percent and 47.5 percent respectively.
  • The Event Dropout Rate for AI/AN students was 6.7 percent in 2009-2010, nearly a percentage point higher than in the previous year. Seven states – Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Montana, South Dakota, and Wyoming – had Event Dropout Rates of 10 percent or more.

“The latest graduation data is just a reminder that Native education is in crisis”, says NIEA President Dr. Heather Shotton. “Our students aren’t being provided high-quality education to succeed in the knowledge-based economy. This is a slide into inequality that that we must reverse.”

The latest graduation rate news comes as NIEA convenes LegSummit 2013, the 16th annual gathering of Native education advocates in Washington, D.C. The association plans to unveil its 2013 Congressional and White House Policy Agenda at the two-day conference, which will feature discussions about Native and national education issues. 

In November, NIEA released a series of policy recommendations to the Obama Administration as embarked on its second term. The recommendations, part of the Association’s efforts to reform Native education for American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian children, provide guidance to Administration officials in understanding the unique needs of Native students.

NIEA is also working to build the capacity of Native communities to reform education. This includes work on integrating Native culture into Common Core reading and math standards, as well as implementing those standards in classrooms; this work is funded through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Reporters seeking additional information and analysis can contact NIEA’s Director of Communications, either at (202) 544-7290 or at


WHO: NIEA President Dr. Heather Shotton and the Association’s more than 3,000 members and advocates

WHAT: NIEA’s statement on 2009-2010 Four-Year Regulatory Averaged Freshman Graduation Rates for American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian students.

WHY: The data is another reminder that Native education is in a state of emergency.

MEDIA CONTACT: NIEA Communications ( or 202.544.7290)


About National Indian Education Association:  The premiere organization advocating for educational excellence, opportunity, and equity for Native students, the National Indian Education Association (NIEA) advances comprehensive educational opportunities for American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians throughout the United States. Learn more at