The high school graduation rate for Native Americans in North Dakota continues to rise. However, there is still a significant gap in graduation rates between Native American students and non-native students.
In 2017, there was a 23% difference in graduation rates between Native Americans and their white counterparts.
KX News talked to State Superintendent, Kirstin Baesler, who says shes proud of our progress, but says we still have a ways to go.
Baesler told me when she went into office 6 years ago, the Native American graduation rate was just under 57%, she now says that number has risen to nearly 72%.
“The Native American culture, history is apart of where we live and its apart of who we are as North Dakotans,” says Baesler.
Baesler said one of her main goals when she came into office was to increase the graduation rates for Native Americans. Baesler explains why she thinks they were so low in the first place.
“We have a better understanding now than when we did 10 years ago how a school needs to relevant for kids and it needs to be applicable. We know so much more deeply that a student isn’t going to just learn something because you tell them he has too.”
Baesler says the biggest impact on the increase has been the relationships North Dakota schools have built with the Native American population.
“It’s about the relationships that they have built with their schools,” says Baesler. “So what we did was provide supports, technical assistance, and professional development opportunity. So again we delivered them the opportunities and they took advantage of it.”
With a nearly 15% increase in high school graduation, KX wanted to see if this had any effect on Native American college graduation rates as well.
Admissions and Recruitment Director at UTTC, Vicki Alberts says, “So we are right on trend with what is happening with our high school graduate rate because we have seen an increase in our student population from 18 to 24 year olds just in the past couple of years whereas in 2016 our main demographic was 25 and older.”
Alberts says she has even noticed a difference in schools from putting on more events to get Native American students involved.
“What we see when going out in recruitment in our regional area mainly in the state of North Dakota is a lot of high schools are putting more effort into getting their students college prepared,” says Alberts.
Alberts told me that Native American college graduation has rose to 38% and they have nearly doubled in the number of tours in the past year.
Baesler and Alberts both agree there is still a lot more work to be done. They say they feel positive about continuing the growth in the future for both high school and college graduation rates.