Only about 50 percent of Native American students graduate high school, compared to 80 percent of white students. That’s one reason why the Wyoming Department of Education teamed up with the North Central Comprehensive Center, a national education contractor, to conduct listening sessions in each of the three school districts on the Wind River Reservation.
At the sessions, students and parents agreed that reservation schools need more Native American teachers, less bullying and gangs, and more culturally relevant courses, including Native language instruction. And, they said, they need academic expectations to be held to the same bar as every other Wyoming school.
“My grandson goes to the school in Lander. We won’t transfer him back here [to the reservation] because they’re two years behind where my grandson is,” remarked one participant.
Wyoming Department of Education Policy Advisor Megan Degenfelder said this input will hopefully point the department in the right direction, “to improve education for Native American students and to best be able to allocate our resources and time. And so I kind of looked at it, and still do, as a starting point. How do we get some data that we can evaluate and look to move forward on?”
But Degenfelder said only about 40 people attended the listening sessions.
“You know, you always want more data,” she said. “But I think this was a decent participation and something that the Comprehensive Center felt was something they could still make determinations on.”
Degenfelder said comments collected at the listening sessions will be used in future planning for reservation school improvements.