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Connectedness Key For Native Youth

When secondary education is not completed, drop ping out of high school is linked to occupational, economic, and social disadvantage (Levin, 1992; Sherman, 1993; Sullivan, 1988). Across all ethnic groups, research has established a number of interrelated causes of school dropout, including poor grades, absenteeism, truancy, school discipline problems, and dislike of school (Bachman, 1991). Longitudinal studies show that delinquency problems and low self-esteem often predate the act of dropping out of school. Dropouts are also more likely to have difficulty interacting with teachers. Other studies link dropping out to a student's and attitudes in the education setting (Eberhard, 1989; Goertz, Ekstrom, & Rock, 1991; Swisher & Hoisch, 1992). (Machamer & Gruber, 1998. Journal of Educational Research).

Low levels of educational attainment for American Indian youth have been consistently documented. American Indians have the lowest levels of educational attainment compared with any other ethnic group at all levels of the education pipeline (Astin, 1977, 1982; McNamara, 1982). Most research in the field focuses on higher education, with little attention to the prior difficulties of American Indians at the secondary level. A common focus links academic difficulty with racial and cultural factors. (Machamer & Gruber, 1998. Journal of Educational Research).

The links between students' family relationships and their educational attitudes and behaviors indicate that family variables have an important influence on Native education. One research team surveyed 31 Indian ninth-grade boys and girls from South Dakota reservations and city communities about attitudes toward peers, family, school, and self. Family-related self-concept of boys was higher for boys living on reservations than for boys living in cities, but family-related self-concept was lower for girls living on reservations. Overall, reservation youth were more positive about themselves in relation to school-related activities than were the city students. We attribute the lower self-concept scores of nonreservation youth to their minority status in the urban environment. (Machamer & Gruber, 1998. Journal of Educational Research).

In a study of Indigenous high school dropouts conducted in Montana, many adolescents stated that teacher-student relationships were an important factor in the decision to drop out; over one third believed that teachers did not care about them (Coladarci, 1993). Home-related problems were also an important factor; roughly 40% believed that lack of parental support led to their decision, and more than 40% indicated that problems at home were influential in the choice to drop out. Most troubling, 78% reported a considerable change of attitude after leaving school. Those results show not only the importance of teacher attitudes to the American Indian student but also the influence of family support on scholastic confidence. (Machamer & Gruber, 1998. Journal of Educational Research).

IINII uses a revolutionary Design Thinking process to help your school community gain an understanding of one’s sense of self, as well as developing an understanding of students’ and parents’ values; having an understanding of one’s values matters because research has shown that it is linked to better well-being, less stress, and increased confidence in one’s ability to succeed.

Understanding students’ values can be developed with culturally sustaining practices that reflect a student’s identity and experience. Particularly helpful is focusing efforts on cultural competence and relevance and providing opportunities for students to practice bridging differences between diverse identities in a safe environment. To learn how you can create a dynamic youth-centered environment that honors the unique values of your students and parents, visit our website at, or contact us at or 1800-507-2502.

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