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Supporting Native American Students along STEM Education Pathways: Findings from an Exploratory Study of South Dakota's Educational Landscape


Becky Carroll, Heather Mitchell, Pamela Tambe, Mark St. John. Inverness Research Inc. With assistance from: Jerry Accurso, Elizabeth Horsch, Laurie Lopez, Mary Regan, Inverness Research Inc.


In 2006, South Dakota received an EPSCoR grant focused on strengthening the state's capacity for science and engineering research. A portion of the budget was earmarked for educational outreach efforts through the Center for the Advancement of Mathematics and Science Education at Black Hills State University in Spearfish. Among the education-related goals, the PIs on the EPSCoR project were seeking ways to more successfully serve Native American students-to recruit and retain Native American students into the sciences and post-secondary education. The first step was to learn more about the current landscape of education for Native American students across the state.

Inverness Research, Inc. was contracted to conduct an exploratory study focused on the learning experiences of Native American students in mathematics and science in South Dakota, barriers in continuing on to post-secondary education in math and science, and the supports that currently exist. Our goal in this study was to identify issues and opportunities, to examine the experience of students in high school and college in math and science, and to a lesser extent, study the broader context leading up to high school. Inverness Research was hired to conduct this study primarily because of our knowledge of math and science education, gained from evaluating hundreds of projects across the country aimed at improving the teaching and learning of math and science. We have evaluated and consulted on several projects in South Dakota, and have some experience with Native American populations.

Over the course of three years, our study included telephone interviews with representatives from the South Dakota state government, universities and Tribal Colleges throughout South Dakota; and site visits to universities, colleges and Tribal Colleges, school districts serving Native American populations, and two reservations. The site visits included classroom observations, as well as interviews with students, teachers, university professors, school district administrators, program leaders, and parents.
We observed students in math and science classes in several locations in the state. We also conducted in-depth focus groups and interviews with Native American students in high school, in Tribal Colleges, and in Regents institutions. Most of the students we interviewed were those that were utilizing or benefiting from supports and resources designed to encourage Native American students to stay in school and/or pursue post-secondary work in math and science.

Intended Audience

Math and Science Reform Leaders, Policy Makers, Education Administrators, Foundations, and general public.


Any and all errors are claimed by the authors of this document, Inverness Research, Inc.

Funded by

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation/EPSCoR Grant No. 0903804 and by the State of South Dakota. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Date published

January 2010

Distribution Policy

Inverness Research Inc. grants permission to print and distribute copies.

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