BISMARCK, N.D. | The high school graduation rate for Native Americans in North Dakota is rising, but a significant disparity persists when compared to the overall student population.
Data recently released by the state's Department of Public Instruction show that the 2017 graduation rate for Native American students was 67.3 percent, up from 65.2 percent in 2016. Findings also show that dropout rates have decreased for Native American students, which represent about 10 percent of the K-12 student population in North Dakota.
But the report identified a 23 percent gap in 2017 graduation rates between Native American students and their white counterparts, the Bismarck Tribune reported.
State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler called the Native American graduation rate increase a "good start," but said that there's "a lot of work ahead of us."
North Dakota education officials identified the need to improve Native American graduations rates a few years ago, Baesler said. The state analyzed how instruction could be provided differently to Native American students both on and off the reservation, adding a cultural component to the K-12 curriculum called Native American Essential Understandings.
"Once you get past the idea of identifying there's a problem, you can start to begin to work on a solution," she said.
The Department of Public Instruction met twice with tribal leaders on all five of the state's reservations last year, Baesler said. The meetings were part of the state's compliance with federal education law Every Student Succeeds Act, which includes a section about tribal engagement.
Baesler said the meetings "broke down some barriers" between the department and tribal government.
The department will also continue to administer its Native American Needs Assessment Survey, said Lucy Fredericks, director of the department's Office of Indian/Multicultural Education. The agency will send out a survey next month.