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Graduation rates for Native American students rising in ND

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North Dakota has seen an increase in the graduation rate for Native American students.

State school superintendent Kirsten Baesler said when she was first elected, the Native graduation rate was 57 percent. Now it’s 72 percent. And Baesler said while that is significant progress, there’s more to do.

The overall graduation rate in North Dakota is 89 percent.

Baesler attributes the better numbers for Native American children in part to more engaged school boards.

"When school boards get distracted by spending more time talking about adult issues, and less time talking about issues that impact their students, those schools go astray," Baesler said.

Baesler said DPI has been working with local schools to institute more culturally-aware curriculums in schools across the state.

"Over 2000 of our teachers have received the 'Essential Understandings' training DPI has offered for the last five years," Baesler said. "It's our goal to make sure all of our teachers have that training."

Baesler said one trend she’s noticing is Native American students who take two or more career and technical education courses actually have shown a 94 percent graduation rate.

"If they take two years of marketing, automotive or construction, any CTE course, they're graduating at a higher rate than the state average," Baesler said. "There's something in those courses we need to capture more of."

Baesler said in the recent NAEP test – which stands for National Assessment of Educational Progress – Native American reading scores went up 3 points – and she said that’s huge.

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