PORTLAND, Ore. -

Members of Oregon’s federally recognized tribes have never before been able to see how their students’ performance compares to other students in Oregon -- until now.

With funding from the Spirit Mountain Community Fund, ECONorthwest has compared the tribal membership roles for seven of Oregon’s federally recognized tribes with data from the Oregon Department of Education.

The resulting analysis, released Wednesday, shines light on where members of these tribes go to school, their math and reading achievement and graduation rates, as well as a number of other data points. The findings are informative and disheartening.

Participating Oregon tribes included the Burns Paiute Tribe, Cow Creek Tribe of Umpqua Band of Indians, Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, Klamath Tribes, Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.

The findings include:

--Seventy-five percent of tribal enrolled students in the seven tribes are eligible for free- and reduced- price lunch, which indicates their households have incomes below 185 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.

--Tribal enrolled students in the seven tribes show elevated rates of chronic absenteeism—that is, missing 10 percent or more of school days. One-third of tribal students were chronically absent in 2011-12. Rates are highest at the high school level, with 43 percent of tribal students chronically absent.

--Almost one-third of tribal students in the seven tribes are enrolled in so-called priority or focus schools. These are schools that are deemed underperforming through federal and state rules and are targeted for intervention representing the bottom 15 percent of state schools. By contrast, only 6.6 percent of all Oregon students are enrolled in priority or focus schools.

--Tribal enrolled students pass Oregon's state math and reading assessments at rates 13 to 20 percentage points below the statewide average, depending on grade level.

--Fifty-five percent of tribal students in the seven tribes from the high school class of 2011 graduated on-time with a traditional diploma.

"It is upsetting that we have never had the opportunity to see our students' performance relative to their peers in this way before,” said Ramona Halcomb, Director of Education at the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. “This data is very insightful and now that we know the magnitude of the problems we can craft solutions that can begin to turn around this crisis."

The analysis also points out complications with identifying students who are members of Oregon tribes. There are students enrolled in Oregon’s tribes who are not identified as American Indian/Alaskan Native in the Oregon Department of Education’s records.

In the 2011-12 school year, 67,172 Oregon public school students were identified in Oregon Department of Education records as an American Indian/Alaskan Native (AI/AN). Of students identified as AI/AN, 4.4 percent were enrolled in one of the seven Oregon tribes analyzed.

--There are a total of 3,210 students enrolled in one of the seven tribes that participated in the study.

--Seventy-four percent of enrolled tribal members were identified as only AI/AN in Oregon Department of Education reporting. Another 18 percent were identified as American Indian in combination with another race/ethnicity. Eight percent of enrolled tribal members in the seven tribes are not identified as AI/AN in ODE’s records.

--In general, enrolled tribal members demonstrate below-average attendance, achievement, and graduation outcomes, and the performance gaps typically exceed those for other students identified as American Indian/Alaska Native. Understanding the relative performance of these distinct groups is only possible through a separate analysis of enrolled tribal member outcomes.

These findings point to significant complications when it comes to understanding how members of Oregon’s tribes and other American Indian students perform in school.

Tribal members in the seven tribes analyzed make up less than 5% of ODE’s AI/AN subgroup. There are also tribal members that are not being counted for educational purposes as part of the sub-group.

These complications make it difficult for Oregon Tribal Governments to direct their resources to meet the needs of their students. There is currently no on-going way for the tribes or the state to evaluate Oregon Tribal member student outcomes accurately.

"Spirit Mountain is committed to turning this data into real action to help Oregon's tribal children,” said Kathleen George, Spirit Mountain Community Fund Director. “Every child deserves a quality education and it is clear that too many tribal kids are out of sight and out of mind in our education system. We need to act quickly and decisively to help tribal students. These kids cannot wait any longer to get an effective education."

A full report based on this analysis will be released this spring and is expected to include recommendations from stakeholders to help improve outcomes for student members of Oregon’s tribes.

“This analysis is a step forward in understanding the challenges facing the student members of seven of Oregon’s tribes. We fully expect this report to open up important conversations and lead toward community-driven solutions,” said Sue Hildick, Chalkboard Project President.


Read the executive summary and review the data slides.

The Chalkboard Project’s role in this study is that of catalyst and collaborator. Chalkboard wants to understand the progress and results of specific student populations in Oregon in order to identify education needs and policy opportunities. This is the third analysis that Chalkboard has participated in. The other two reports are “A Deeper Look at the Black-White Achievement Gap in Oregon” and “The Hispanic-White Achievement Gap in Oregon” located here: chalkboardproject.org/the-issues/student-success/.