Last week Dane Smith from Growth and Justice was in the Itasca area for the Student Success Core Team’s year-end celebration. (Which, by the way,  was super fun thanks to a visit from the Theater for Public Policy. Here’s a glimpse of the group in action) He left me his December 4 copy of Education Week because of its focus on education in Indian Country.

Yesterday MPR’s The Daily Circuit picked up the story and talked to Education Week writer Lesli A Maxwell and Danielle Grant, the Director of the Indian Education program at Minneapolis schools. Listen to the story

The audio segment runs 39 minutes and includes some harsh realities of being a Native student in Minnesota:

  • Minnesota’s four-year graduation rate for all students is 77%; for Native students it’s 46% – the lowest in the nation – according to a MinnCAN report.
  • Native students tend to give up on school sooner than other groups. Schools in Minneapolis start seeing a dramatic decline in enrollment in 7th grade.
  • 90 % of Native kids in Minneapolis are eligible to receive free and reduced lunch.

Looking for reasons behind these dismal statistics, Grant is quick to talk about the damaging role boarding schools had on Native communities and their relationship with education. She reminds us that you learn how to be in a family by being in one, which was not an option for the generations of Native people who grew up in institutions, where they didn’t learn how to parent and left carrying the pain and trauma of that experience.

Grant gave two suggestions for reestablishing the relationship between education and Native people:

  • The boarding schools took the family and community out of the education of their children. Grant says it’s time to put the community and family back at the center of the education of their child. This can be done by schools assisting and engaging families so they can become a partner, along with teachers, in the education of their child.
  •  Make curriculum more engaging for Native kids. Grant commented that too much of the time Native American people are talked about in an historical context, which implies they don’t exist today as current, contemporary people. This can be alienating and isolating for Native American students.

The Pathway to Student Success is about creating a future in which all families in the Greater Itasca Area – regardless of background, income, or geographic location – have the resources, knowledge, relationships, support and skills needed to ensure a healthy future. Does the Pathway include Native students? Absolutely.