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Report highlights disparities in Native test scores

American Indian and Alaska Native students trail their counterparts in national reading and math tests, the Education Department reported on Tuesday.

At grades 4 and 8, American Indian and Alaska Native students had lower average reading scores than for all other students in the nation. The same was true the mathematics tests, according to the report.

In addition to scoring lower, Native students were more likely to score "below basic" level than their counterparts on the reading tests. At grade 4, for example, 52 percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives failed to score at the basic level, compared to just 36 percent of all other students.

The results for the math tests were more promising but still showed disparities. Among eight graders, 47 percent of Native Americans were "below basic," compared to 31 percent of students nationwide.

The data was found in the National Indian Education Study. Part I of the study focuses on performance levels of Native American student on the 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress, often called the nation's report card.

Part II of the study, to be released in the future, will focus on demographic and cultural factors of the more than 500,000 Native students who attend public, private and Bureau of Indian Affairs schools.

In 2005, about 7,200 American Indian and Alaska Native students took the reading assessment and about 7,300 took the math test. The report presents additional data on seven states -- Alaska, Arizona, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota -- where Native Americans make up a significant portion of the population.

In Oklahoma, for example, Native students scored better on the reading and math tests than Native students in other states. About 7.9 percent of the state is Native, according to the 2000 Census.

Native students in Montana also performed well on both the reading and math tests compared to Native students in other states. About 6.2 percent of the population in Montana is Native, according to Census figures.

In the other states, the average scores of Native students were below the average for all Native students on both the reading and the math tests. The lowest reading scores were found in Alaska, Arizona and New Mexico, while the lowest math scores were found in Arizona, New Mexico and South Dakota.

Despite the disparities, the math scores of American Indian and Alaska Native students have improved in recent years. According to another Education Department report, Native fourth-graders gained 15 points and Native eighth-graders gained 10 points from 2000 to 2005.

At the same time, reading levels among American Indian and Alaska Native students have fallen slightly since 2002. The report yesterday confirmed that Native students don't perform as well on the reading test as they do on the math test.

National Indian Education Study:
Overview | Executive Summary | Full Report

Relevant Links:
National Center for Education Statistics -
Nation's Report Card -