As the North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School District grapples with closing the achievement gap between Indian and white students, it may rely on recommendations of a parent group.

The nine-member Indian Education Parent Committee offered several suggestions on how best to shrink the “opportunity and achievement gaps,” said Tom Howley, the district's educational equity coordinator. They offered the recommendations at the April 22 school board meeting, in the form of a “letter of nonconcurrence” giving the district a failing grade in its efforts to improve achievement by Indian students.

Such a review by a parent group is required every year in school districts with more than 10 Indian students, officials said. The district has 213 students of Native American descent. It has about 10,700 students overall in nine elementary schools, three middle schools and two high schools.

In its letter, the parent group put forth a number of suggestions, from requiring educators to receive cultural competence training in order to “support new curriculum for Minnesota State Standards in Ojibwe and Dakota culture” to giving Indian students with academic support.

“Basically, it was an acknowledgment of what we’ve done, what we’ve been able to accomplish, and also acknowledgment that there’s more work to be done to close the gaps, to close the opportunity and achievement gaps,” Howley said.

District officials expect it will take another several years before significant gains are made in reducing the minority achievement gaps.

Parents also wanted the district to continue to adjust its curriculum to include Native American history and culture, while keeping state-required core subjects.

Howley said the proficiency gap has actually been closing steadily since 2010. In 2013, there was a 21.7 percent gap in math achievement test scores and a 17.5 percent gap in reading scores between Indian and white students, down from 24.1 percent and 18.8 percent, respectively, the previous year.

Robin Nelson, academic/cultural adviser in the district’s Office of American Indian Education, said she continues to be concerned about Indian student achievement, but believes the district is on the right track. “North St. Paul is not an anomaly,” Nelson said.

The state Department of Educations’s Office of Indian Education released a report last fall, citing the U.S. Department of Education, showing the state ranked last of all states in “4-year adjusted cohort graduation rate of American Indian students.”

Libor Jany • 651-925-5033 Twitter:@StribJany