While graduation rates have improved in Rapid City Area Schools—according to the South Dakota Department of Education, last year just under 52 percent of Native American students graduated, an increase from 40 percent in 2007—nearly 11 percent of Native students dropped out. Compare that to only 2.4 percent of their non-Native peers dropping out, that’s a big difference.
According to a report by Civic Enterprises, a public policy firm, high school dropouts are more likely to live in poverty, be incarcerated, become single parents and be unhealthy.
Lynn Taylor Rick, reporting for the Rapid City Journal wrote that Rapid City Area Schools scored poorly compared to other districts in the state of similar size. In 2011, 10.6 percent of Native students dropped out of Rapid City schools, compared to 6.2 percent dropping out of Sioux Falls schools. The numbers were similar in Aberdeen where 5.3 percent of Native students dropped out that same year.
Roger Campbell, director of the South Dakota Office of Indian Education, said Native dropout rates have become a focus of his office and he will be visiting Rapid City in August for a Native American education summit.
Jr. Bettelyoun, director of Indian Education in Rapid City, said the summit will bring together South Dakota schools that have been successful in improving graduation and dropout rates among Native American students.
“Sometimes we take for granted our students are dropping out for reasons beyond our control,” Bettelyoun told the Rapid City Journal. “I also think there are some things we can do within our school environment to help keep kids in school.”
Schools with large Native American student populations will be invited to the summit and will be asked to bring their success stories.
“We will be gathering some of those best practice models that are making a difference,” Campbell told the Rapid City Journal.