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Longie (1995) conducted research on absenteeism on the Spirit Lake Nation Reservation, in which he collected the attendance records of all students in eighth grade through their senior year of high school. He compared attendance to academic achievement test scores and high school graduation rates. The study also included interviews with parents and school personnel.

Important findings from this study were:

Native American students, on the average, miss many more days of school than non-Native students, even if they are attending the same schools. The average Native American student missed over a month of school days in the eighth grade  alone!
 Parents’ involvement is critical, but often absent, in addressing chronic attendance problems. This was found to be even more true in the classrooms these Native American students attended, because the teachers were often not prepared to deal with problems of poor attendance and low academic achievement.
Students who eventually dropped out of high school could be identified as early as the eighth grade based on their attendance records. Dropouts missed twice as many days of school in the eighth grade as did non-dropouts.
There was a significant negative correlation between number of absences and standardized achievement test scores for Native American students only.



Let's address this last point; it is very important (that is why it is listed under important findings (-:  ).

? Why  would would  absenteeism be related to low achievement only for Native American students ?

Two, non-exclusive hypotheses were offered by the author.

  • First,  middle-class families may be able to compensate for their children’s absences by providing tutoring at home, which many Indian parents, with a significantly lower level of education, are unable to provide. In this study, as indeed in American society, ethnicity and social class were confounded, with the non-Indian students coming predominantly from middle-class homes while the Indian students were overwhelmingly low-income.
  • Second, for Indian students, high absenteeism may represent a rejection of the educational system, which, by its failure to consider Native American culture, appears to have rejected them. Education which is incongruent with the culture, values and experiences of Native American students causes a role conflict which can be resolved by either rejecting one’s own culture, or, more often, rebellion against the educational system. This rebellion is seen in the early grades as frequent absenteeism and in secondary and  postsecondary education as school dropout (Longie, 1995; Trueba, Spindler & Spindler,1989).
? Why  would would  absenteeism be higher among Native American students?

 Again, the author offered two possible explanations.

    One of the possibilities is the same as was just mentioned above regarding Native American students feeling that their culture had been rejected by the schools, and thus a feeling of alienation.

It was also clear from the parent interviews  that students needed to be taught to take responsibility for their own learning, but that, too often, this teaching did not occur in the home. This failure to teach responsible habits of attendance, consistent completion of schoolwork, etc. was of particular concern because, in  many cases, the school personnel did not appear prepared to teach these behaviors.

Two common attitudes were identified among many (although certainly not all) teachers in predominantly Native American schools. There were the ‘rescuers’ who were trying to help the poor Indian, and provided minimal structure and discipline. They would pass students with poor attendance and/or performance out of unwillingness to damage the student’s self-esteem or add school failure to a student’s existing socioeconomic burden. At the other extreme were the ‘standard bearers’, who were determined that all students must meet the same standards and if Native American students were behind academically, they failed, period. Neither of these types of classrooms provide the support students need to improve their academic skills or learn responsible habits. In the absence of appropriate structure in the classrooms, parental support is more important than ever.

    In Longie’s (1995) study of absenteeism, all of the (non-indian) school personnel who were interviewed believed that whether a teacher was Indian or not was irrelevant, that students who were chronically absent would be regardless of who taught them. In contrast, the parents interviewed unanimously agreed that having a non-American Indian teacher had a tremendous impact on their children’s learning. Parents believed that teachers’ failure to understand their children’s community, value system and learned social behavior resulted in miscommunication and insensitivity on the part of the teacher and distrust on the part of the student. One question which was NOT asked in the interviews (but, in retrospect, would have been good information to have) was whether parents had tried to educate teachers regarding their children, community and culture, and, if so, what the response had been on the part of the schools.

    Future research and application of these findings recommended by the author were in the areas of :

  • Encouraging greater participation on the part of parents in their children's education, particularly as far as requiring regular school attendance,
  • Revising the school curriculum to be more responsive to the culture of Native American children,
  • Increasing communication between parents and teachers, and
  • Recruiting Native American teachers and school administrators.

In case you were wondering whether any follow up to this research was done, the answer is, "no", because the author finished the graduate program for which this research was required, and went on to become president of Cankdeska Cikana Community College.While it might appear that I just put it in here to be kissing up (AS IF!), I actually think it is pretty interesting to have research on your own community.


Clark, J. E. (1983).  Values and academic achievement among American Indian high school students in North Dakota. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks.
Kronick, R. F. & Hargis, C. H. (1990). Dropouts: Who drops out and why-- and the recommended action.  Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.
Longie, E. S. (1995).  A study of attendance and achievement patterns among eighth grade American Indian and non-American Indian student on the Devils Lake Sioux Reservation. Unpublished manuscript, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks.
Trueba, H. T., Spindler, G & Spindler, L. (1989) What do anthropologists have to say about dropouts?  New York: The Falmer Press


(This is copied word for word from an ERIC Digest of research on parent involvement in schooling during middle childhood.
Click here if you want to read the whole article. It is not required but it won't hurt you, and it is only a few pages long.)

Years of practice wisdom, theory, and related areas of research (i.e., the importance of the home literacy environment, parental
stimulation of children's language development, security of the parent-child attachment relationship, and parent involvement in
preschool and early intervention programs) strongly suggest that parents' involvement in their children's formal schooling is vital
for their academic success, even though the research evidence is less than conclusive. While methodological limitations are
prevalent in the majority of parent involvement research (described below), the sound studies that do exist have consistently found
strong parent involvement effects. Moreover, the cumulative knowledge from existing studies suggests the importance of several
other specific types of parent involvement, including the following:

booksprovision of a stimulating literacy and material environment (Snow et al., 1991),

*high expectations and moderate levels of parental support and supervision (Kurdek, Fine, & Sinclair, 1995),

*appropriate monitoring of television viewing and homework completion (Clark, 1993),

*participation in joint learning activities at home (Tizard et al., 1982),

*an emphasis on effort over ability (Stevenson, 1983), and

*autonomy promoting parenting practices (Lamborn, Mounts, Steinberg, & Dornbusch, 1991).

There is mounting evidence that each of these parent involvement variables facilitates children's academic achievement. There are
also indications that they do so in relatively complex ways that interact with family background and social context variables such as
ethnicity, family structure, maternal employment status, socioeconomic status, and gender (Schiamberg & Chin, 1986; Milne,
1989; Tocci & Englehard, 1991; Zimilies & Lee, 1991; Lee & Croninger, 1994).
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