What are some of the common denominators of Minnesota schools that have found success educating Native American students?

According to MinnCan, they have high expectations for students, build relationships with families and put a premium on mentoring and supporting teachers.

Those are some of the common sense conclusions the education reform group came to after recently visiting schools in Minneapolis, Cloquet and Detroit Lakes as part of a statewide tour.

Those visits - and the what staff members learned - make up much of the group's new report "Native American Student Achievement in Minnesota."

MinnCAN staffers said they wanted to focus on what schools were doing right, rather than shortcomings (Minnesota graduation rates for Native American students have been consistently low for years).

“The depressing statistics about educational inequities can obscure other equally important facts: that despite the odds, dedicated educators and engaged parents do succeed in helping Native students achieve," said Jacqueline White, one of the report's co-authors. "We sought hope–and it turned out we didn’t need to look far. The expertise we need to reverse the numbers is already hard at work in Minnesota.”

The group says schools achieved impressive results with they use data pro-actively to help struggling students, have access to programs that support the education of Native American teachers and create permanent, collaborative agreements with the community.

In Minneapolis, the group profiles Anishinabe Academy, a magnet school focused on Native American culture and language. The report details some of the school's efforts to teach Dakota and Ojibwe languages to pre-schoolers

"A lot of the kids really need this program," Karen LaMere told MinnCan. "They wouldn't be ready for kindergarten without it."

Churchill Elementary in Cloquet