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Study Finds California Schools Fail American Indian Students

Less than one-quarter of American Indian and Native Alaskan students meet University of California and California State University entrance requirements by the time they graduate from high school, according to a report released this week by Cal State San Marcos.

The State of American Indian & Alaska Native Education in Califronia
This report by the California Indian Culture and Sovereignty Center at Cal State San Marcos makes the case that Native American students are not being educated well enough in California public schools, and those that do graduate from high school are not prepared for college.
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The "State of American Indian and Alaska Native Education in California 2014" study found that 24.9 percent of those students met UC and CSU entrance standards, compared to 38.3 percent of the general student population.

Greater efforts are needed to prepare American Indian and Native Alaskan students for college, said the authors, who are affiliated with the California Indian Culture and Sovereignty Center at CSUSM.


"American Indian and Alaska Native high school students are graduating at rates 6 percent below the state average for other ethnic groups," said Joely Proudfit, the center's director and study co-author.

Some California tribes work to educate their own youth, but most Indians go to public schools, Proudfit said.

“Those tribal governments that have invested in their own schools, their students are doing great. They’re doing fantastic,” she said. “What is of concern to us is that the majority of tribal youth do not go to a tribal school, they go to public schools, and the public schools are failing our Native American students.”

The study includes data on enrollment and graduation rates, dropout rates and numbers of degrees conferred, and gives a breakdown of students by race and ethnicity.

Enrollment of American Indian and Native Alaskan students at UC campuses soared 67 percent between the fall of 2011 and fall of 2012, according to the study, but dropped 61 percent at CSU schools and fell 16 percent at community colleges.


"The steady decline in the overall annual enrollment rate of (American Indian and Alaska Native) students in the CSU seems to indicate that we are admitting more students but they are dropping out — we are not retaining them once they get here," Proudfit said.

The report was made possible by a $500,000 grant from the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians near San Bernardino.

Corrected: April 17, 2024 at 3:30 PM PDT
KPBS reporter Matthew Bowler contributed to this report.