In 2012, American Indian students in Minnesota had a graduation rate of 42 percent. The overall Minnesota graduation rate at the time was 77 percent. The data on mathematics and reading proficiency that the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) had for the same year also highlighted a significant achievement gap between the state’s American Indian and overall student populations.
In response to a disproportionately low graduation rate and large achievement gap, MDE established the Director of Indian Education position to work closely with the Tribal Nations in the state. MDE partnered with the Midwest Comprehensive Center, which supported the director’s office in planning and hosting the first Minnesota American Indian Education Summit. The Center served as a thought partner to MDE staff on the content development, speaker selections, and design of the summit, which brought together Indian education program staff, teachers, tribal organization representatives, superintendents, higher education faculty and staff, community members, and other nonprofit organizations.
The Summit convened a variety of educators to identify strategies for closing the achievement gap, sharing resources, exploring solutions, and scaling up effective practices to improve outcomes for American Indian students. Many of the attendees reported that they planned to share or use what they learned at the Summit with some expressing interest in intensive training and coaching related to American Indian education.
MDE now has dedicated staff members with increased knowledge and skills to provide guidance and strategies specific to the state’s American Indian populations to schools, districts, and organizations. MDE has the skills and tools to bring the right stakeholders to the table and develop American Indian Education curriculum resources to improve American Indian student outcomes.