Western Exposure

Seattle Schools failing Native American students?

By December 9, 2009March 19th, 20153 Comments

carol_smithwebNative American students in Seattle are not graduating at the same rate as non-Native students, according to KUOW’s Phyllis Fletcher, who has been tracking how the Seattle  school district spends its money. In her report, she finds that only 44 percent of Native American students graduate compared with 63 percent for all students. A less than two-thirds graduation rate for all students isn’t something to brag about, but the under 50 percent rate for Native kids is distressing, and the irony is the schools do have access to federal funds specifically to educate Native kids. Yet they apparently aren’t using them effectively.

Indian Heritage Middle College High School, established in the 1970s to provide Native students an education, has not received any federal money earmarked for Indian education. In fact, the school district, which does get some of that money, isn’t sure where all of it went,  although district officials told Fletcher some of it was used for tutoring and leadership programs as well as staff development. An auditor’s report of the district’s use of Indian money is expected this month.

— Carol Smith

Carol Smith

Carol Smith



  • Sarah Kelly says:

    Might add that the schools and programs for Native students established in the district since the driving force of the Indian Education Act of 1972 have gradually lost their native flavor over the years. Not only does the district not know where the money has gone, but these programs supposedly receiving monies are not in compliance and have not been for some time.

  • David S Brewer says:

    What is needed are standards for the N.A. students that is identical to the standards set for all other students. Yes, culture courses are important, but for the Indian student to have a chance at success in the real world, they need an educational experience that is identical to what everyone else has. The problem for Native American youth, as well as every other sub-set in our American cultural soup, is the HOME. Parents need to be involved, and they need to stress the importance of education, of homework, etc. Parents need to set the boundaries for their children, and parents must make their children study.

    Yes, I am proudly Native, of a local Salish tribe, and I come from a family that values education. I reflect upon an older generation of my tribe, where education was stressed, and when there were strong family units that supported the children in education – there was real academic achievement made. The only thing that held that generation back was the racism that prevented them from achieving anything more. Now, we no longer have the racism of the past (sure, it is present, to an extent, but not at all like earlier days) but we have managed to convince a generation of Natives that they are somehow deficient. Nowadays we have a generation of family units that are used to the public dole, that wear the label of Native American as an excuse for low achievement, and a generation of parents that don’t take responsibility for their children.

    What is needed, both for Natives as well as the rest of society, is for a return to strong family values (“family” in what ever form that may take), and an economic system that provides for real opportunity for all, and real hope for our youth. Please, let’s stop coddling people for every perceived difference.

  • Sarah Kelly says:

    I don’t know, David. Though what you are saying is a little off topic, pointing the root problem of poor academic performance as the family. The reality is many of these parents have problems of their own to deal with and not everyone can be as fortunate as you. Would you disregard a real call for help because they weren’t lucky?
    What the concern is here is that the programs set up for the children are failing, for whatever reason, let’s address those root problems because I agree, interference in the social structure by “coddling” is not the aim. Getting people to do what they have promised and to perform the tasks for what they receive funding is the issue.

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