By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
American Indian students have the lowest high school graduation rate in the country, thirty points lower than Asian students, according to a recent report. Education Week and the Editorial Projects in Education (EPE) Research Center released the report that states American Indian students in 2010 had an overall graduation rate of 51.1 percent.
Cherokee High School is beating those odds. For that same period, the school reported a graduation rate of 77.78 percent. The following year (2011-12), that rate improved to 78.85 percent. The rate for 2012-13 has not been reported yet.
“I am so pleased as our graduation rate continues to improve,” said Cherokee School Board chairperson Lori Blankenship. “I truly believe our school system and our Tribe provide the necessary support and encouragement to stay in school. As a result, our students are more compelled to graduate from high school. For example, we have the minor fund requirements where, in order to access your per capita savings, you must complete high school or wait until the age of 21. I think for a lot of our students this is a huge factor in completing graduation.”
She continued, “This coming school year, our high school will be offering college courses from three different universities which is a tremendous opportunity for those students who will be furthering their education. Also, students are more aware of the vast opportunities available to them. The college tours that are offered by the Tribe’s Education Department and the support of groups like Talent Search are valuable resources for our students. I have actually heard from students that they wished the college tours would expand across the United States.”
Woodreen Caldwell, CHS principal, commented, “Improving the graduation rate is not an easy task. Commitment from parents, staff, and community members who are making an investment in academic excellence is paying off for Cherokee High School.”
And, improve the school’s graduation rate they have . Cherokee High School reported rates below the national average for American Indians just a few years ago including: 43.80 percent in 2008-09 and 49.59 percent in 2009-10.
“Our stakeholders are ensuring accountability and striving for excellence,” said Caldwell. “Our job will not be complete until we reach the goal of 100 percent graduation rate established by our School Board.”
Blankenship added, “It is my opinion there are other things we can do to further increase our graduation rate such as improved communication between the school and the parents. Keeping parents informed is crucial to a student’s success. Also, increased involvement with those students who have been labeled at risk to make sure services are provided to those students and families. It is highly imperative that intervention strategies begin before the student enters high school in order to assure success. Even if students do not plan on continuing to college it will greatly impact the student’s future by attaining a high school diploma.”
According to the EPE report, Asian students topped the list at 81.1 percent followed by white students 79.6 percent, Latino 68.1 percent, and Black 61.7 percent.
“Ed Week’s report once again makes clear that our Native students are not getting the high-quality academic and cultural education they need to help themselves, their families, and their communities in the knowledge-based future,” said National Indian Education Association president Dr. Heather Shotton. “It will take both additional federal resources as well as hard work from Native educators, communities, and leaders to help our youth stay on the path to high school graduation and college completion.”
Overall, graduation rates in the country increased 7.9 percent from 2000 to 2010 and North Carolina was one of 10 states that posted a ten-digit increase during that time period (60.3 percent in 2000 to 71.7 in 2010).
Vermont posted the highest graduation of any state in 2010 at 85 percent, and New Mexico posted the lowest at 59.4 percent.
Christopher B. Swanson, EPE vice president, commented, “A decade ago, as concerns about the nation’s graduation rate were just starting to gain public attention, only two thirds of U.S. students were finishing high school with a diploma. Now, the graduation rate for America’s public schools stands just shy of 75 percent.”