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The Educational Achievement of Indian Children

CHAPTER II

Differences In Student Backgrounds

INTRODUCTION

Since the present study was designed to complete the cycle begun by the 1946 testing, the information gathered by means of the Background Questionnaire in the 1950 study was essentially the same as in 1946. Peterson3 had this to say regarding this phase of the investigation:

A great many statements have been made and articles written describing the Indian student, often drawing comparisons between him and white pupils. Good or poor achievement has frequently been explained on the basis of racial or cultural differences between the two groups. Up to the time of this study, no service-wide survey has collected the data needed to draw valid conclusions in regard to:

(1) the actual difference between the achievement of Indian students and white children from rural areas,

(2) cultural differences between the two groups, or

(3) the relation between achievement and cultural differences.

It may be said therefore that the objective of this survey is three-fold:

(1) to measure the educational achievement of students in Indian schools,

(2) to gather data relative to the cultural backgrounds of the Indian and non-urban white students in Indian, public and mission schools, and

(3) to determine the relationships, if any, which exist between these measures of cultural background and school achievement.

Practical limitations made it necessary to collect cultural data on a relatively small number of topics, but those which were selected for study were those which seemed likely to be most important as an aid to interpreting the test data and also as indication of the other information which should ultimately be collected during the following years of the study.

However, the present study was concerned chiefly with finding an answer to the question: How well are Indian children educated? This basic question was broken down into several specific questions as follows:

1. Is the educational achievement of Indian children in some geographic areas greater than in others?

2. Is the educational achievement of Indian children in some types of schools greater than in others?

3. Is the educational achievement of Indian children in the various types of schools they attend, as great as that of non-Indian children in rural public schools?

4. What factors are in operation to produce differences in achievement of Indian children in the different areas, in different types of schools, and in contrast to non-Indian children in public schools?

5. The superior performance of fourth grade Indian children on the 1946 tests, led to the tentative conclusion that the more systematically organized program of instruction keyed to Indian needs, accounted in large part for this clear-cut superiority, and raised the question as to whether these same pupils at the eighth grade level would also show an achievement superior to that of previous eighth graders who had not had the benefit of basic instruction under the new Indian school educational program. Therefore, the following question: On tests common to both the eighth and twelfth grades, what is the percentage of overlap or what percentage of the students in the eighth grade exceeded the mean of the twelfth grade?

COMPOSITION OF TYPES OF SCHOOLS BY AREAS

Many of the comparisons that follow later in Chapter 3 will be more meaningful if one knows the areas represented in the 1950 testing program. Table 2 shows the composition of the types of schools by areas for the students in grades eight and twelve in this study. For example, a large proportion of the students in the eighth and twelfth grades who attended Government reservation boarding schools lived in the Dakota, Pueblo, and Oklahoma areas. A majority of the Indian children in the eighth grade in this study who attended public schools lived in the Mountain and Pacific areas.

CULTURAL BACKGROUNDS OF THE STUDENTS

phone icon Degree of Indian Blood

Table 3 describes the degree of Indian blood of the students in the two grade levels in the different types of schools. The Peterson report also listed the degree of Indian blood according to the different geographic areas. This information was also obtained for this report but since the data were essentially the same as in the 1946 study, they were not recorded here. The same was true of the information gathered on other factors considered in this chapter and therefore it has not been included in this report.

Table 2 & 3

Essentially the some generalizations were obtained with regard to the degree of Indian blood as in the 1946 report,4 namely:

(1) Nearly all of the students in the Navajo, Pueblo and other Southwest schools are full blood Indians.

(2) There is a larger percentage of mixed blood students in the non-reservation schools than in any of the other types of Federal Indian schools.

(3) The public schools and mission schools selected for comparison have a fairly wide range of students, extending from the full blood Indians to all-white students.

Since this report is concerned essentially with comparisons of achievement of Indian children in the various types of schools they attended, the third generalization listed above is important. If the public schools and the mission schools selected had contained only full blood Indians, it would have been difficult to compare the achievement of the Indian children in these schools with the Indian children in government schools where the degree of Indian blood ranged from full blood to some Indian blood. This is assuming that the degree of Indian blood is a factor in school achievement. The evidence presented in the 1946 study with regard to this question was inconclusive.

phone icon Education of Parents

Table 4 indicates the average years of school attendance of parents of children enrolled in the fourth grade in the 1946 report and the eighth grade in this report. The educational attendance of the parents of the students in the twelfth grade in 1950 was not available. Peterson concluded that the “students coming from homes in which parents have had the advantage of considerable education, tend to remain in school longer than those coming from homes where the parents have had little or no schooling.”5 Table 4 neither confirms nor denies Peterson's conclusion. However, the parents of Indian children enrolled in the public schools had the highest average years of school attendance when compared with parents of Indian children enrolled in the other four types of schools.

A study of drop-outs in the Lawrence Junior High School, Lawrence, Kansas,6 revealed that the average school grade reached by the mothers was 8.1 and that reached by the fathers was 7.7. Both of these values are higher than those listed for the Indian children in grade eight in Table 4. The average school grade reached by the parents of all junior high school students in the Lawrence school would be much higher.

In a study of a representative group of North Central High Schools in Kansas, about eighty-eight per cent of the adults, in the communities in which these schools were located, had completed the elementary school or higher.7

Any conclusions, therefore, regarding the achievement of Indian students in the various schools and white students in public schools should be tempered by the fact that the educational level reached by the parents of Indian children is probably considerably less than that reached by the parents of white children in public schools.

Table 4

phone icon Language Spoken in the Home

Table 5 describes the pre-school language usually spoken by the eighth and twelfth grade Indian students in the 1950 study. Peterson had this to say about the language spoken in the homes of Indian children in the 1946 study:"8

It should be noted that this represents the language which the student reported as that which is actually spoken in the home?not the homes in which one or both parents can talk and understand enough English to converse in that language if necessary. There is evidence that many students who, because they speak English habitually around school and are thought of as English-speaking, actually speak only Indian when they are at home. It is also apparent that many adult Indians who speak perfectly good English when necessary, elect to converse in their Indian language at home. It will be noted that the students in day schools come from homes in which less English is spoken than do the students in any of the other types of Indian schools. As would be expected, the public school children have by far the greatest amount of English spoken in their homes. This is true for Indian students in public schools, as well as for whites in public schools. A much greater proportion of English is spoken in the homes of the twelfth grade students in Indian schools, and the proportion for the eighth grade is greater than that for the fourth grade. The language spoken in the home appears to be correlated with school achievement and also with the number of years the student remains in school.

Although the information was not available, observations have indicated that English was the predominant language spoken in the homes of white children in the public schools in this study. Therefore, any conclusions regarding the achievement of Indian students in the various schools and white students in public schools should be tempered by this fact.

Table 5

phone icon Home Stability

Table 6 describes the home stability of the students in the eighth grade by indicating the percentage living with their parents, with only their father, with only their mother, with relatives, or with others. Data for the twelfth grade were not available. The following statement appeared in the 1946 study:9

These data do not appear to have a direct or easily interpretable relationship with any of the achievement scores, or with home factors studied, but they will probably prove of value and interest in personnel and adjustment studies. For example, the percentage of students living with both parents is much smaller among students in non-reservation boarding schools than in any other type of school. * The data do not indicate, of course, that the broken home is never a factor in the poor achievement of an individual student, but they do indicate that, whatever the adverse effects of a broken home may have been among these students, they are concealed by other factors more directly affecting achievement.


*Dependency because of a broken home is one criterion for admission to a non-reservation boarding school.

Table 6

The important thing to note in Table 6 is that the percentage of students falling into the various categories did not differ too widely in the various types of school which these Indian children attended. If home stability is a factor in school achievement, the students who attended the non-reservation schools should not have achieved as much as students who attended the other types of schools. Although the data were not available, observations indicate that a greater percentage of the white children in the public schools in this study lived with their parents than was true of the Indian children in the various schools. This factor must be considered when comparing the achievement of Indian children in the various schools and white children in the public schools.

phone icon Permanent Residence

Table 7 indicates the percentage of students in the various types of schools living in urban centers of 500 or more population. The Indian children enrolled in the non-reservation boarding schools and in the public schools lived in population centers more urban than the Indian children who attended the other types of schools. A much greater percentage of the white children in public schools in this study lived in urban centers than was true of Indian children in any of the types of schools they attended. Certain cultural advantages are open to youngsters living in urban centers that are not available to those living in rural areas. It would be expected that Indian children living in urban centers might assimilate the white man's culture more rapidly than Indian children living in rural areas. Any conclusions, therefore, regarding the achievement of Indian children and white children in public schools should take the facts revealed in Table 7 into consideration.

Table 7

phone icon Kinds of Friends

Table 8 reveals percentages of the kinds of friends of Indian children who attend the various schools for Indians and the kinds of friends of white children who attend the public schools included in this study. If contact with white children is a factor in school achievement, then the Indian children attending the public schools should achieve more than the Indian children attending the other types of schools for Indian children. The Indian children in the twelfth grade in this study apparently have more contact with white children. Therefore, if contact with white children is a factor in school achievement, then the Indian students in the upper grades should compare more favorably with white children in school achievement than the Indian children in the lower grades.

Table 8

EDUCATIONAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE STUDENTS

phone icon Grade Placement and School Attendance

Table 9 shows the average age of the students in grades eight and twelve in the 1950 study. These values are almost identical with those given in the 1946 study. However, the percentages of students accelerated in the eighth and twelfth grades in 1946 were 4.5 per cent and 15.9 per cent respectively,10 as contrasted to 9.5 per cent and 17.3 percent respectively in the 1950 study. However, the gain in acceleration in the eighth grade was offset by an increase in retardation, the percentage of retardation being 6.8 per cent in 1946 as contrasted to 13.2 per cent in 1950. In the twelfth grade in 1950, there was an increase in the percentage of students accelerated and in the expected age group and a decrease in the percentage of students retarded when compared with the values given in the 1946 study. Whether or not this trend represents a change in promotional policy or a dropping out of less capable students was not revealed by the information gathered.

Table 9

Table 10 indicates the number of years of school attendance in relation to grade placement. The average number of years of school attendance was almost identical with that reported in the 1946 study.11

Table 10

Here again the comparison with regard to accelerated, regularly promoted, and retarded students is almost the same as mentioned previously with regard to Table 9.

In a study of a group of Kansas North Central high schools,12 the percentage of over-ageness decreased from grades nine to twelve, while the percentage of youngness increased. This trend noted in Tables 9 and 10 for Indian children is typical of white children in the public schools. The decrease in the percentage of retarded students in the upper grades may be partially explained by acceleration during the interval or because more of the students now entering have difficulties that result in early retardation.

The percentage of students in the twelfth grade in the Kansas North Central high schools who were older than 17.5 years, was 17.6 per cent. The percentage of students in the twelfth grade in the Indian schools in this study who were over 17.5 years was 82.8 per cent. Thus, it is apparent that the Indian students in the twelfth grade in this study were considerably retarded when compared with white students in typical public high schools. There are many reasons for this retardation, the chief one probably being the late entrance of many Indian students in school. Thus, any conclusions regarding the achievement of Indian students in the various schools with white children in public schools must be tempered by differences in the ages of students in relation to their grade placement.

phone icon Size of School Attended

Table 11 presents some information regarding size of school attended by Indian children, and white children in public schools. The number of cases for grade twelve for white children in public schools was far too few to make a comparison. Two studies13, 14 have shown the size of the school to be a factor in school achievement. These studies demonstrated that students in schools of less than 100 pupils did not achieve as much in certain subjects as pupils in schools enrolling from 100 to 500 students. Whether or not this factor played a role in this present study is not known, but it might well have affected the Indian students.

Table 11

phone icon School Attendance

Table 12 shows the median number of days attended by Indian children in the various schools and by white children in public schools. Table 13 gives the percentage of Indian children in the various schools and white children in public schools that attended from 155 to 184 days. It is apparent from these two tables that Indian children in the non-reservation boarding schools have the best record of attendance while the Indian children in the day schools have the poorest record of attendance. However, the attendance figures as given here for Indian children compare favorably with those of white children in the public schools in this study. If attendance is a factor in school achievement, then Indian children attending non-reservation boarding schools should achieve the most and Indian children attending day schools should achieve the least. This is merely an interesting hypothesis, which might be explored in a study planned to test out the hypothesis.

Table 12 & 13

phone icon Males and Females Enrolled

Table 14 indicates the percentage of male and female Indian children enrolled in the various schools and the percentage of male and female white children enrolled in the public schools in this study. These figures would seem to indicate that the schools which Indian children attend are holding more girls than boys in school. This trend is more evident with regard to white children in the public schools. The latest enrollment figures for the nation show that about 430,000 more girls than boys go to high school, despite the fact that there are more boys than girls of high school age."15

Table 14

phone iconAcademic Ambition

Table 15 indicates the percentage of students desiring to complete the various grades or courses. The some kind of information was not available for the white children in the public schools in this study, but it would be supposed that the academic ambition of the white children would be higher than that of the Indian children. Furthermore, it would be supposed that academic ambition would be a factor in school achievement. Whether or not this factor played a role in this study is not known.

Table 15

SUMMARY

A number of factors seemingly related to school achievement have been cited and discussed. If these factors affected school achievement as measured in this study, they did so to produce differences in achievement:

(1) among Indian children attending the different types of schools or living in different geographic areas, and

(2) of Indian children when contrasted to white children in public schools.

These factors and many more, tend to operate in two directions. This complicates rather than simplifies the problem of answering the question, how well are Indian children educated?

Some of the factors discussed operate in varying degrees of intensity on different groups of Indian children to produce less school achievement than that attained by white children in the public schools. Some of these factors are: degree of Indian blood, language spoken in the home, home stability, place of residence, kinds of friends, late entrance to school, size of school attended, regularity of school attendance, and academic ambition. Any conclusions, therefore, regarding the school achievement of Indian children as contrasted to the school achievement of white children in public schools must be tempered by the fact that these factors may tend to operate against Indian children. Some may argue that the influence of some of these factors on school achievement has not been definitely established. Until research proves differently, we can only be mindful of the differences in the cultural and educational backgrounds of Indian children as contrasted to white children in public schools.

3 Peterson. op. cit. p. 27.

4 Peterson, op.cit. p. 29.

5 Peterson, op cit. p. 30.

6 Review and Preview, Secondary School Studies of Drop-Outs, Hidden Tuition Costs, Junior High Activity Program. Lawrence Junior High School, Liberty Memorial High School, Lawrence, Kansas. (In cooperation with the School of Education, University of Kansas) 1950-51.

7 Kenneth E. Anderson. A Summary Report to the North Central Schools of Kansas on Criterion I. (Mimeographed Bulletin) School of Education, University of Kansas, 1949, p. 16.

8 Peterson. op. cit. pp. 31-32.

9 Peterson. op.cit. pp. 33-34.

10 Peterson. op. cit. p. 34.

11 Peterson. op. cit. p. 34.

12 Kenneth F. Anderson. A Summary Report to the North Central Schools of Kansas on Criterion 1, p. 13.

13 Kenneth E. Anderson. "A Frontal Attack on the Basic Problem in Evaluation." Journal of Experimental Education, 18 (March 1950) 163-174.

14 Jim Schunert. "The Association of Mathematical Achievement with Certain Factors Resident in the Teacher, in the Teaching, in the Pupil and in the School." Journal of Experimental Education, 19 (March 1951) 219-238.

15 EIIsworth Tompkins. "Where Are the Boys?" School and Society, 70 (July 2, 1949) 8-10.

 

 

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Last modified August 17, 2006