FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Education leaders held the first Fairbanks Native Education Summit over the weekend to address the achievement gap between Alaska Native students and their white counterparts.
Native students lag an astounding 20 points behind white students on achievement tests, and the dropout rate among Alaska Natives is high.
''It's a crisis,'' said Eleanor Laughlin, a Fairbanks North Star Borough School District administrator and Alaska Native. ''Things are not going to happen overnight, but things are going to have to start changing for our Native students.''
The meeting on Saturday followed a statewide Native education summit held in Anchorage last year.
Ideas from the Fairbanks summit will be compiled into a report and an action group will be formed to work on proposed solutions, Laughlin said.
Ideas include finding an Alaskan Native to run for the school board, boosting the number of Native teachers, and making the school curriculum more relevant to Alaska Native students. Cultural training for teachers was also recommended.
Alaska Natives make up about 5 percent of the 900 teachers in the school district, while Alaska Native students are 16 percent of the district enrollment.
Native students in Fairbanks do better on the average than Native students statewide, but fall behind their white counterparts in reading, language and math, according to an analysis of achievement test scores provided by the district.
For example, one chart showed that middle and high school students who are Alaska Native ranked in the 48th percentile in reading last year. White students ranked in the 70th percentile. Black students, also represented on the chart, ranked in the 51st percentile. The good new is, both minorities' average reading test scores have improved from two years ago.
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