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Native Pathways to Education
Alaska Native Cultural Resources
Indigenous Knowledge Systems
Indigenous Education Worldwide

The Educational Achievement of Indian Children


Conclusions and Plans for the Future


On the basis of the statistical techniques used, differences in educational accomplishments large enough to be considered significant were obtained between types of schools on each of the tests in both the eighth and twelfth grades.

phone icon Grade Eight

In terms of significant critical ratios, differences in achievement of Indian children in the various types of schools as a group were:

1. Greatest in capitalization, sentence structure, and vocabulary.

2. Apparent in reading to appreciate general significance, arithmetic computation, punctuation, and length of free writing.

3. Few in arithmetic-factor abilities and use of resources.

4. Non-existent in reading to understand precise directions, good usage, and errors in free writing.

In terms of significant critical ratios, white children in the public schools when compared to the Indian children in the various types of schools as a group, were:

1. Definitely superior in good usage, reading to understand precise directions, sentence structure, punctuation, and reading to appreciate general significance.

2. Superior in capitalization, arithmetic-factor abilities, arithmetic computation, and use of resources.

3. Somewhat superior in vocabulary.

4. Somewhat superior in errors in free writing.

5. No better in length of free writing.

phone icon Grade Twelve

In terms of significant critical ratios, differences in achievement of Indian children in the various types of schools as a group were:

1. Greatest in vocabulary, arithmetic-factor abilities, punctuation, capitalization, reading to note details.

2. Were apparent in length of free writing, errors in free writing, use of resources, sentence structure, good usage, reading to predict outcomes of given events, and health and safety.

In terms of significant critical ratios, white children in the public schools when compared to the Indian children in the various types of schools as a group, were:

1. Definitely superior in capitalization, good usage, sentence structure, and punctuation.

2. Superior in vocabulary and reading to predict the outcomes of given events.

3. Somewhat superior in reading to note details, arithmeticfactor abilities, use of resources, and health and safety.

4. No better in length of free writing.

5. Somewhat superior in errors in free writing.


Considerable differences in achievement were noted from area to area and from one type of school to another in both grade eight and twelve with evidence of varying degrees of overlap. The fact that the areas and types of schools were quite consistent in performance on the tests as a whole on both grade levels tentatively indicates that, with regard to educational achievement, a hierarchy of both areas and types of schools seems to exist.

When these hierarchies were used to produce a ranking of areas and a ranking of types of schools, and when these rankings were correlated with rankings on certain cultural and educational factors, correlations were obtained which lend support to the statement: that as the cultural and educational backgrounds of Indian children become more like those of white children in the public schools, the more closely will the educational achievement of Indian children match that of white children.

Educational workers in the various areas and types of schools need not be unduly concerned with the relative position of their area or type of school with reference to the others until they have ascertained whether or not the children under their direction had greater or lesser cultural and educational opportunities as compared to children in other areas or types of schools. Even then, differences in teacher competency coupled with other factors operate to produce differences in pupil achievement among Indian children as well as white children.


phone icon Tour of the Southwest

In January of 1951, L. Madison Coombs, Education Specialist for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and Dr. Kenneth E. Anderson of the University of Kansas visited schools throughout the Southwest area with the specific purpose of improving the Indian Testing Service. The following letter of suggestions and recommendations was sent to Dr. Beatty on February 13, 1951:

Dear Dr. Beatty:

After a seventeen-day tour of the Southwest reservations, I am impressed with the vastness and complexity of the whole Indian problem and feel that much more should be done to ameliorate the injustices which have been visited upon these conquered peoples.

If all of the critics of Indian education could have the privilege that Madison Coombs and I have had of a visit to the schools of the Southwest, they would have to agree that Indian education is not without merit. I have developed a profound respect for the excellent work being done in this area. The personnel is of high caliber, and has a professional outlook that warms the heart. While everyone was cooperative, 1 wish to mention especially the following people who made our tour pleasant and enlightening: Mr. Beggs, Mrs. Bibo, Miss Gould, Mr. Williams, Mr. Warren, Mr. Gray, Mrs. Thompson, Mr. Bramlett, Mr. Carnal, Mr. Wells, Mr. Morelock, Mr. Lundeen, Mr. Ryan, and Mr. Pratt. These people and many others offered constructive suggestions which should be valuable to the testing program. It is my sincere opinion that your people are doing a fine job of making education function realistically for the Indian boy and girl.

In order to increase the scope and effectiveness of your work the following recommendations are made, subsequent to the seventeen-day tour of the schools in the Pueblo, Navajo, Hopi, Pima, and Papago Indian Reservations:

1. A general conference should be held in the spring of 1951, at which representatives of the testing personnel, University of Kansas, and area educationists should:

(a) review the past and present testing program.

(b) consider the testing program in the light of the objectives of Indian education and the minimum essential goals.

(c) select tests from the inventory of existing tests or construct new tests to measure the stated objectives.

(d) develop a blueprint for administering, tabulating, and reporting test data to schools within the several areas.

This phase is separate from the background information sheets used in the past. It is hoped that the schools would, within two months after the tests had been given, have in their hands the essential statistical data and norms necessary for proper interpretation of an individual's achievement in essential subjects.

(e) discuss the guidance possibilities inherent in the new testing program.

2. The basic list of tests for the fundamental subjects should be made up of those tests in which equivalent forms are available, so that identical tests are not used from year to year.

3. Administration of tests for the fundamental subjects should be on a service-wide basis and should occur at approximately the same time each year so that growth in subject matter areas could be measured consistently.

4. Comprehensive plans for the administration, scoring, and reporting of test data should be laid by the area educationists in conferences in their areas prior to the testing week. Standardized forms for reporting and tabulation of data should be used to report data to Haskell. The completed forms should be in the Haskell office within three weeks after the tests are given. The University of Kansas Bureaus (Research and Guidance) would make the statistical computations necessary for proper interpretation of the data. Reports with recommendations for improvement of instruction would then be prepared for distribution to areas and schools.

5. Diagnosis and guidance purposes could be served by the use of transparent acetates. These might display lines to indicate: (a) area norms, (b) reservation norms, (c) day school norms, and (d) boarding school norms. The acetates would be distributed to areas and schools. Thus, by direct comparison, the Indian schools within each area might determine the field, for example arithmetic fundamentals, where greater concentration was needed. This plan should result in an increased vitality of instruction throughout the Indian service. The acetates might also be used with individual students so that more than lip service could be paid to the principle of individual differences.

6. A comprehensive booklet might be prepared for teachers regarding the administration, scoring, use, and interpretation of test results. The booklet should contain many graphic portrayals of the possible uses of test data.

7. Experimental testing should be done on an area basis with members of the testing personnel supervising in such special areas as: (a) home economics, (b) use of natural resources, (c) personality tests, (d) attitude tests, (e) use of tools and appliances in the home, and etc. The results of the tests should be analyzed and comparisons made by areas to bring forth any general or basic conclusions regarding Indian education for the future. Research reports in lay language should be prepared and distributed. The first year, the Southwest area might be involved in experimental testing. The next year the Northwest area, and etc.

8. Cognizance of lack of facility with the English language, and certain other factors should be the basis for statistical comparisons of Indians in Indian schools with: (a) white children in public schools, and (b) Indian children in public schools. Comparisons of achievement with pre-test scores held constant to compensate for lack of English comprehension on the part of the Indian child, should be run (analysis of variance and covariance) to determine whether growth in an area of instruction is less, the same, or greater, than for white children in the same grades. This should definitely establish whether or not Indian education is poorer, as good as, or better than the education provided in public schools.

9. Advisement of children in Indian high schools as to future employment and education may be facilitated by developing a battery of tests through an experimental program. For example, the problem of selection of students for the commercial course at Haskell might be attacked through this method.

10. Follow-up studies of Indian children graduating from high school and college should be made to properly evaluate the success of the program. This might be not unlike that now being conducted at the Pine Ridge Reservation.

This letter is written with the hope that some of the recommendations may be carried through for an improved program of Indian education. We are ready to use our personnel and facilities to this end.

Sincerely yours,

Kenneth E. Anderson,
Professor of Education,
Director, Bureau of Educational Research and Service.

phone icon The Intermountain Conference

The conference recommended under (1) in the letter to Dr. Beatty took place on June 15 and 16, 1951. The following resume of the conference, written by Mr. Coombs, describes in some detail the results of the conference.

PLACE: Intermountain Indian School, Brigham City, Utah.

DATES: June 15 and 16, 1951.

PURPOSE: Planning an evaluation program for Indian education.

CONFEREES: Dr. Willard W. Beatty, Chief, Branch of Education, United States Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Dr. Kenneth E. Anderson, Dr. Gordon Collister and Mr. Carl E. Ladd, consultants to the program from the University of Kansas Bureau of Educational Research and Service, and the Guidance Bureau.

Dr. George A. Dale, Earl C. Intolubbe and L. Madison Coombs, Education Specialists, Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Vernon L. Beggs, George C. Wells, Hildegard Thompson, Louise Wiberg, A. B. Caldwell, Henry Wall, Bertha Ellinger and Russell Kelley, Area Educationists of the Bureau of Indian Affairs or their representatives.

William Clasby, Supervisor of Indian Education for the State Department of Education, Oklahoma.

William Benham, John Carmody and Albert Hawley also sat in on some of the sessions.

In Dr. Beatty's opening statement to the group, he said that it is necessary that the Education Branch carry on a continuous program of evaluation in order to measure its effectiveness in terms of its educational objectives. Findings coming out of such a program serve as the basis for curriculum building, improvement of instruction, etc. It also provides objective evidence with which to answer critics of Indian education when such criticism is inaccurate, unfair or based on false assumptions or incomplete or distorted data. He pointed out that such a program has been in effect for some years, first with the help of the University of Chicago and more recently under the guidance of the University of Kansas and its Bureaus of Educational Research and Guidance. Currently, he said, this program of evaluation is concentrating on two particular points:

1. The effectiveness of our school programs for children while in school.

2. Its effectiveness in the longer run; is there an improved way of life at the post school or adult level for those individuals who have attended Indian schools? This second type of evaluation is exemplified by the Pine Ridge study now in progress. A similar study is being projected for the state of Oklahoma. In addition, the Guidance Bureau of the University of Kansas has been giving tests to Indian young people who are applicants for either educational loans or admission to the Haskell Institute Commercial training course, with a view to predicting success in college, nurses training or post high school vocational training for individuals.

Dr. Beatty also stated that one of our jobs in the near future would be construction of tests to measure achievement in the minimum essential goals.

Mr. Coombs then pointed out that in evaluating the effectiveness of a school system it is necessary to have some basis for comparison. Since Indian Service schools are constantly and inevitably being compared with public schools and mission schools, the evaluative process should include all three types. He said he felt that a careful approach to this type of evaluation was essential and that consideration should be given to:

1. The selection of schools of all three types which were similar to each other in point of the children enrolled, i. e., cultural and language backgrounds, geographic, social and economic environment, etc. Cooperative planning with public and mission school officials would be necessary with a view to all types of schools deriving benefit from the study.

2. Careful concentration on a selected area for the purpose of acquainting school personnel at all levels with the purpose of the study, its probable beneficial outcomes and techniques involved in the administration of tests and the interpretation of their results. If the conferees agreed with this approach, then the area should be decided upon.

3. A decision should be reached as to the grade levels at which testing should be done and the instructional areas in which tests should be given.

Dr. Anderson then stated that as a result of his visit to schools in the Albuquerque, Window Rock and Phoenix areas last January, it was his belief that such a program of achievement testing would serve the general administrative purposes which Dr. Beatty had mentioned earlier and would also serve important educational purposes at the area, reservation and local school level. For example, by the development of local grade norms such as for day schools on a certain reservation or boarding school within a certain area, test results could be made much more meaningful and useful than by the use of national norms. Test results could then be placed in the hands of local school personnel and used for diagnosis of individual pupils' strengths and weaknesses, strengthening of the instructional program, adaptation of the level of instruction, etc., to mention only a few. He said that one technique for doing this type of thing would be explained by Dr. Collister a little later on.

As a result of discussion among the conferees, it was decided that the plan for an intensified program within one area the first year, as outlined above, was wise but the area was not definitely decided upon. It was the feeling of the group that such a first year's program could serve as a pilot study, with procedures being perfected, but that within the next two or three years, all areas to be included should be brought into the program to lend integration to the program and avoid loss of interest.

The conferees felt that testing should begin at the third grade level and extend through the twelfth with all pupils in all grades in each of the schools included in the study being tested. It was also agreed that pending the construction of tests to fit specific needs, it would be necessary to select commercial standardized tests which would serve our purposes, plus certain tests already constructed for Indian schools, such as the Use of Resources, Health and Safety, Homemaking and Nutrition tests. Because of the desirability of using the same instrument in all areas, it was agreed that testing should largely be concentrated in the field of the basic skills, namely reading, spelling, language usage and arithmetic, with the United States Indian Service tests named above being used where applicable. The general uniformity of educational goals in the area of the basic skills, in public, mission and Indian Service schools made this seem wise. Selection of specific instruments was deferred until more data were available upon which to base the selection of tests. It was agreed that tests should be developed for the minimum essential goals as soon as possible. Dr. Anderson stressed the desirability of accomplishing this latter purpose at least partially through Bureau of Indian Affairs personnel working on the problem as graduate students at the University of Kansas. Dr. Beatty later indicated that this arrangement might be possible. It was agreed that testing should be done early in the school year in order to make possible the fullest use of the data by local school personnel.

It was recognized that numerous testing programs are now being carried on by schools, reservations and areas. It was Dr. Beatty's feeling that these programs were not always as productive as they should be and that they should be coordinated with the larger program or brought up to a higher level of efficiency with the help of the University of Kansas consultants. I n all cases, it was agreed every effort should be made to avoid duplication of effort and to minimize dislocation of the aims of existing testing programs.

At one of the sessions, Dr. Collister demonstrated the technique of using transparent acetate "overlays" showing norms referred to earlier in this summary. These can be placed over individual student profiles or class profiles and provide a graphic presentation of data for analysis purposes.

In discussing the proposed survey of former enrollees of Oklahoma Indian Service and public schools, Mr. Dale gave a brief review of the methods used in the Pine Ridge survey for consideration as a starting point for the Oklahoma survey. The following proposals and questions were raised:

MR. CLASBY: Proposes using school records from selected schools to establish a population for the study; or as an alternate, to take selected areas representing agricultural and industrial sections of the state and working from records of certain high schools within these areas.

He raises the objection that the interview technique tends to produce a negative selection, i. e., many of the more successful students leave the state and cannot be found for interview and will be too busy to answer questionnaires. He is of the opinion that the questions concerning the effectiveness of schools in general is related to poor teaching personnel.

MR. CALDWELL: Raises the question that selection at a given grade level prevents studying the typical enrollee due to the fact that many will already have dropped out before reaching the grade level selected. He proposes selecting samples at given chronological age levels.

Mr. Clasby and Mr. Caldwell are willing to participate in this survey and very generously offered to assist in any way possible in getting the survey started.

DR. COLLISTER: In discussing general procedure and technique of the survey, pointed out the following: that we are missing a good bet in evaluating the effect of our schools if we do not ask the former enrollee (graduate or otherwise) what he thinks of his school experience, for example:

1. What dial you expect to do (what goals) when you left school?

2. To what extent have you realized your goals?

3. To what extent did your school experience help you in realizing these goals?

4. What are your present goals, etc.?

Sufficiently intensive study of the above should reveal extent of the culturation.

Dr. Collister also pointed out:

1. Records of reasons for drop-outs probably biased because the student frequently does not give real reason why he dropped out.

2. Student should be asked why he dropped out as he sees the situation now; also the reason for his dropping out as it existed

at the time he dropped out. Was dropping out due to lack of acceptance by the group? (Because of being an Indian, because of low economic status, etc.)

DR. ANDERSON: If the study is to yield conclusive application to all of Oklahoma, all types of schools should be proportionately represented in the samples selected. Follow each group through high school to find drop-outs anal graduates and secure data. Investigator should secure:

1. Personal data-age, number of children, etc.

2. Educational data-college graduate, Haskell graduate, how far in school, etc.

3. Employment-how many jobs, what kinds, relation to education, if any-opinion of enrollee concerning effectiveness of school in preparing for employment.

4. Civic activities-how active as citizen, per cent of participation in community activities, social and political activities, etc.

5. Recreation-type, extent, relationship to school experience, etc.

6. Socio-economic status-income-indebtedness, insurance, etc.

7. Community status-rating by peers, law violations.

At the final meeting, the recommendations set forth above were presented to Dr. Beatty and he expressed general agreement with them. He stated that we might better think of areas in terms of cultural similarities rather than administrative organization for the present purpose, and proposed the following divisions:

1. Southwest (Pueblo and Phoenix).

2. Window Rock (Navajo and Hopi).

3. Great Plains (Dakota and Mountain).

4. Oklahoma (Muskogee and Anadarko).

5. Alaska.

He felt that the United States Indian Service maintains so few schools, if any, in the Minneapolis, Portland and Sacramento areas as to make it feasible to omit them from the present survey program. After taking all factors into consideration, he proposed that the first study be made in the Southwest Area, (Albuquerque and Phoenix), beginning in the fall of 1951. The conferees endorsed this proposal and Mr. Beggs and Mr. Wells tendered all possible help on the study.

Dr. Beatty also advised the group that an effort was being made to free Miss Mary Mitchell of the Santa Fe Indian School from her present duties in order that she might devote full time for a six-month period to her research on the Free Writing Test at Haskell Institute in Lawrence, Kansas. He asked Dr. Anderson and Dr. Collister if they would be able to advise her in this research and they indicated they thought it would be possible to do so.

With the understanding that more specific planning must be carried on by the University consultants and Bureau of Indian Affairs personnel during the summer and early fall, the conference was adjourned.

phone icon The Albuquerque Conference

Since the Intermountain Conference recommended that the new testing program be conducted in the Southwest, L. Madison Coombs and the University of Kansas consultants met with the two area educationists and their reservations' principals, supervisors, and teachers. This conference took place September 13 to September 15, 1951. In addition, representatives from the public and mission schools were present since testing was to be done in these schools too.

The fall testing program now in progress in the Southwest will be completed when the profile sheets for the individual pupils together with various acetate overlays are in the hands of the classroom teachers. Thus, each teacher should have in her hands by early in the school year, a picture of the strengths and weaknesses of each pupil under her supervision. Much should be accomplished in the remaining six months to consolidate gains and strengthen weaknesses of Indian children in the basic areas of learning.

Thus, within a period of one year, under the direction of L. Madison Coombs and the University of Kansas consultants, a complete change in emphasis with regard to testing has been effected. If the program now under way in the Southwest proves fruitful, extensions should be made to the other areas as time and personnel permit. As the findings of this study become both known and applied to Indian education and as future developments, already in the planning stage, become realities, the education of Indian boys and girls will definitely prepare them better for living successfully in society.



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Last modified August 17, 2006