Approximately 59,000 American Indian students live in Arizona —approximately 5 percent of total student enrollment. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, Arizona’s American Indian students score below the state average on the National Assessment of Educational Progress reading and mathematics exams.
American Indian children are at higher risk of poor life outcomes. For example, 31 percent of American Indian children lived in poverty as of 2008, compared to 19 percent of the general population. Historically, the unemployment rate among American Indian adults is also higher than among whites and other ethnic minority groups.
One approach to ending this multi-generational poverty is for state and federal policymakers to expand educational opportunities for American Indian students via virtual or digital learning technologies. These learning technologies could greatly improve education for Native American students while protecting cultural heritage and tribal autonomy.
Policymakers should use strategies to incorporate blended-learning programs into the classroom; provide a specific option for children attending Bureau of Indian Education schools to allow them to enroll in Arizona Online Instruction classes; expand private school choice programs to offer full or partial scholarships to American Indian students to enroll in virtual school courses; and create a Federal Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) Virtual School.