Other Youth Topics

Education/Higher Education

The majority of AI/AN youth, an estimated 93 percent, attend public schools, while approximately seven percent attend Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) schools. Additionally, Native students are more likely to attend rural schools.1

AI/AN youth have fewer successful educational outcomes than the general population by nearly all measures. Among AI/AN youth aged 25 and older, 22 percent have not finished high school and only 13 percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 29 percent of the U.S. population who have a bachelor’s degree.2

AI/AN youth experience disparities in many aspects of their education. In 2011, only about 16 percent of AI/AN fourth and eighth graders were proficient or advanced in reading and math compared to nearly 45 percent of White fourth and eighth graders, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress. While all other race/ethnicities saw an improvement in reading and math performance between 2005 and 2011, Native youth did not.3

In higher education, among students enrolled in four-year institutions, only 39 percent of Native students completed college and received their bachelor’s degree compared to 62 percent of White students.4 AI/AN youth also lack access to Advanced Placement (AP) exams, score lower on college entry exams (e.g., ACT), and earn a lower annual median income than others with bachelor’s degree or higher.5

It is evident that there are educational disparities within AI/AN populations, however there are three areas that have been identified as being helpful in improving educational outcomes for Native students. The following three areas include examples of how AI/AN students can be better supported in achieving improved educational outcomes:

  1. Instructional Practices: Promising instructional practices included increasing local autonomy; actively valuing elders’ knowledge; ensuring harmony between home and community life and education; and employing culturally responsive educational practices.
  2. Curriculum Content: Curriculums that were found to be engaging for students included content that utilized students’ prior knowledge, experience, and community values; included culturally relevant content across the curriculum; and ensured that content was accurate and did not include bias and stereotypes.
  3. School Climate: Important attributes of healthy school climate included developing positive behavior supports; building relationships with students and families; communicating a belief in the abilities of learners; learning about Indian heritage; and providing the necessary supports to reach high levels of achievement.6


AANAPISIs: Serving a Critical AAPI Student Population
This blog outlines the issues discussed at a meeting that former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan held with Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander education stakeholders.

Investing in the Future: Native American Youth and Education
This Department of Education blog discusses lessons learned from the White House Tribal Nations Conference held on November 13, 2013.

National Indian Education Association
The National Indian Education Association conducts research and provides information on educational opportunities for AI/AN youth.

Status and Trends in the Education of American Indians and Alaska Natives: 2008
Report by the National Center for Education Statistics on current conditions and recent trends in the education of AI/ANs using statistical measures.

Strengthening Tribal Communities through Education and Economic Development
This fact sheet from The White House provides ways the government can improve tribal education opportunities and outcomes for tribal youth.


1 The State of Education for Native Students, 2013
2 2014 Native Youth Report, 2014
3 The State of Education for Native Students, 2013
4 2014 Native Youth Report, 2014
5 National Indian Education Association: Statistics on Native Students, 2012
6 Jesse, Northup, & Withington, 2015; Oakes & Maday, 2009