Parent group says school district fails American Indian students
The Duluth School District has failed to meet the needs of American Indian students, according to a report from a state-mandated parent committee. In its annual report to the state Department of Education, the committee of American Indian parents...
The Duluth School District has failed to meet the needs of American Indian students, according to a report from a state-mandated parent committee.
In its annual report to the state Department of Education, the committee of American Indian parents and students from the district determined in May that several needs -- many ongoing -- weren't being met to its satisfaction.
The School Board's education committee heard the district's response to the report Tuesday night.
The district has a history of what the state calls being "non-concurrent," with the parent committee, Superintendent Keith Dixon said in a separate interview.
Each year the district attempts to make progress on the areas noted by the committee, he said, and after last year's report, a consultant was brought in to look at how the district works with American Indian students and their families.
"Looking back over the year, we've done a lot of important work toward the items that are listed," Dixon said. "It takes some really focused energy over a long period of time to really work on a number of things there."
This year the committee listed several areas that needed work for American Indian students, along with the progress the district has made and recommendations to make further progress.
Those areas include:
Chemical health and gang problems. "I'm not saying there isn't work we can still do, but we've acknowledged that and put together a way to address those things," Dixon said.
Catching American Indian students who need help early will begin to improve the graduation rate, he said, and several measures next year are meant to do that.
The district has 8,651 students, and 453 of them are American Indian. The 2008 graduation rate for American Indian students was 20.8 percent, compared to an overall graduating rate of 65.8 percent.
This has been a year of researching, planning and developing interventions for next year, said Bill Gronseth, interim assistant superintendent, who noted it takes years to see if they succeed.
The report lists that there has been no progress on many issues, and asks for staff and parent training, American Indian teachers, counselors and advocates and more desegregation money and services for American Indian students. More training in treaty rights and sovereignty and American Indian materials with a focus on Minnesota-based tribes are also requested.
Dixon said that new elementary reading curriculum includes American Indian material, and American Indian students are part of a wide focus on closing the achievement gap for students of color. A member of the district's Indian Education department will also be included on the districtwide curriculum committee.
Dixon said the district needs to work on hiring more American Indian teachers, but struggles with declining funding and a small candidate pool.
"And we have staff we're laying off, let alone trying to hire new staff," he said, noting the goal is to work more with area colleges that have programs for American Indian teachers.
The American Indian parent committee is state-mandated for any district that has 10 or more American Indian students. Calls to committee members weren't returned Tuesday.