Helping Native American students succeed in the classroom

BISMARCK, N.D. - Native American students in the state have the lowest graduation rate of any demographic at 72 percent. That's below the overall average of 88 percent according to the Department of Public Instruction.

This week, educators are gathered at the Capitol working to learn how to bridge the achievement gap.

For six years, teachers and educators have been gathering at the state Capitol to learn about ways to help their Native American students.

“We want our students, we want all students to succeed, but we definitely want to focus on our Native American students because of that achievement gap,” said Lucy Fredericks, DPI Indian multicultural education director.

Experts say part of that is making teachers aware of the differences in the way students learn.

“What we do in the classroom has to be flexible enough that it addresses the needs and provides for the needs of every student,” said Dr. Scott Simpson, a learning specialist with Technology and Innovation in Education.

Simpson and Sharla Steever work with for Technology and Innovation in Education. They've spent time with elders from tribes across the state, interviewing them and putting together videos for teachers to use in the classroom.

“Just by inviting in the culture through story, through song, through those lessons, it gives them an in to be able to say, 'oh, okay, yeah, they're talking about me here, too,'” Steever said.

DPI leaders say although they've made significant strides in creating new practices, they're still working to address issues such as engaging families in academics to help students succeed.

DPI has been working with Technology and Innovation in Education for the last three or four years on the elder videos.