Education

American Indian report pulled from state school board agenda after errors found

Posted February 3

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— A new report that says American Indian students are struggling in reading and math has been pulled from the North Carolina State Board of Education's meeting agenda this week after it was discovered that the report contained multiple mathematical errors.

A WRAL reporter noticed the mistakes while reading the report online and notified the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction on Monday. In an email Tuesday, an NCDPI official said the report will not be presented at Wednesday's state school board meeting as planned. Instead, it will be held until next month "to allow for additional editing."

When asked if the report contained other errors, the official said she did not know. "We're taking another look to make sure (it's correct)," she wrote.

The report, written by the State Advisory Council on Indian Education, includes several incorrect statistics. In one section, the report claims that "28 percent fewer American Indian students were proficient in Math I than white students" last school year. However, the correct figure is 40 percent.

The miscalculations likely happened due to confusion over "percent" versus "percentage points." For example, the report states that 42.6 percent of American Indian students were proficient in Math I compared with 71 percent of white students. That's a difference of about 28 percentage points, which the report mistakenly referred to as "28 percent." The correct percent would be 40.

Similar calculation errors were found throughout the 72-page report. WRAL News reviewed last year's report on American Indian students and found the same kinds of errors.

The distinction between percent and percentage points is important but is commonly used incorrectly, according to Ron Preston, president of the North Carolina Council of Teachers of Mathematics. WRAL News shared a portion of the American Indian report with Preston, and he compared the mistakes to a football announcer confusing "turnover ratio" with "turnover margin."

"No amount of advanced mathematics preparation seems to clear up misconceptions about percent or a number of other topics," Preston wrote. "I could list a number of issues with percent that I see from adults I consider intelligent."

WRAL News emailed Kamiyo Sawyer Lanning, chair of the State Advisory Council on Indian Education who helped author the report, to ask about the errors. She has not responded.

In the report's introduction, Lanning wrote that the council has spent several years focusing "on the achievement gaps in critical areas of the K-12 curriculum" and noted that American Indian students have "formidable low performance, particularly in early literacy/reading and math."

When compared with public school students across the state, American Indian students miss more school days, are suspended more days, take fewer AP courses and have a lower graduation rate, according to the report. "In some districts, the level of low achievement justifies the need for ongoing intensive intervention."

About 20,450 American Indian and Alaskan Native students were enrolled in North Carolina public schools in 2015. Of those, about 16,600 – 81 percent – were enrolled in school districts receiving Title VII funds of the Indian Education Act of 1972. Only those students in Title VII districts are represented in the report's data.

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  • Janet Ghumri Feb 3, 2016
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    I've heard that 82.6% of all percentages quoted are made up on the spot.

  • Forest Hazel Feb 3, 2016
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    So, looks like American Indian students aren't the only ones who may be having a problem with Math......