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Minority Students’ Dropout Rates at Crisis Levels


High school educators have been told in Seattle that dropout rates for minority students, especially Native-Americans, are at crisis levels in six Northwestern states.

“Our success rate with Native children starts in kindergarten, or in preschool,” said Sally Brownfield, the facilitator for the Center for the Improvement of Student Learning in Washington.

The high school educators from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska, Montana and Wyoming met at the University of Washington on Friday for a one-day conference.

A panel of experts told the educators after years of talking about how students need to be properly prepared for school, it’s time for schools to start preparing for students.

Brownfield said that’s when Native-American children first come in contact with “foreign” cultures.

The panelists, made up in part of representatives of the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, advocated resources be redirected to help troubled students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The “Civil Rights Project” conference, a national effort by UCLA, catered to educators serving Native-American and Alaskan-Native students in the six states.

Some districts err on this side of optimism, failing to report missing students as dropouts.

“The statistics school districts turn in aren’t checked,” said Gary Orfield, co-director of UCLA’s Civil Rights Project.

Poverty seems to directly correlate to graduation rates, according to data presented at the conference. High schools serving low-income areas have much lower “promoting power.”

In Washington state, schools with 60 percent promoting power or less, 22 percent of students are Native American, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Thirty percent are Black, 29 percent are Hispanic, 19 percent are Asian and 13 percent are White.

A Johns Hopkins report presented at the conference identified four common reasons students drop out:

— Life events such as pregnancies, arrests or a pressing need for a full-time income.

— Frustration or boredom with curriculum that leads them lose sight of the “reason for coming to school.”

–Subtle encouragement discouragement from teachers or school administrators who label a student “difficult, dangerous of detrimental to the success of the school.”

— Repeated failure to succeed can wear students down.

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