Former Red Lake principal outlines strategies for achieving ambitious grad goal
RED LAKE -- Red Lake Nation's tribal council set an ambitious goal earlier this week: a 100 percent graduation rate for students there. John Eggers, a longtime educator and former Red Lake High School principal who spoke to the council before the...
RED LAKE -- Red Lake Nation’s tribal council set an ambitious goal earlier this week: a 100 percent graduation rate for students there.
John Eggers, a longtime educator and former Red Lake High School principal who spoke to the council before their vote to approve the grad rate goal, has some ideas to get them there.
“They did the first big step,” Eggers said of the council. “The next step is to keep that goal in front of the people.”
That, Eggers said, means getting parents, school district staff, and students themselves more involved via literature, media coverage, newsletters, and community meetings. That way, community leaders can talk to parents about strategies to keep their kids engaged at school: regularly reading together and having books in the house; eating together at home; going to school events; having one-on-one time with their kids’ teachers; and stressing to their children the importance of graduating from high school.
“Once you get that, the next step is to look at how this can be a mindset,” Eggers said. An example of that type of mindset: American Indian culture generally lets elders eat first at a meal or feast, Eggers said.
“And everybody understands that because it's been indoctrinated, it's part of their culture, and so it's become a mindset,” Eggers said. Another example: Red Lake High School’s basketball teams have won consistently for years now, and players there know they’re expected to play hard and win.
“I really believe that the graduation rate can become a mindset, too,” Eggers said. Community leaders like the tribal council, he said, can be role models themselves by ensuring that their own children and grandchildren graduate from high school. And Red Lake School District itself can devise new ways to recognize and react to the early warning signs of a future dropout, many of which present themselves in elementary grades: more “reading recovery” work, home or over-the-phone visits from teachers -- even something as simple as displaying teachers’ high school diplomas on classroom walls as a conversation piece can help accentuate the importance of graduating.
Beyond the tribal council’s vote, Eggers said he plans to meet with Red Lake’s new superintendent to discuss strategies, and help the council identify someone to help make sure the graduation goal doesn’t lose focus.
“What alternative do we have?” Eggers asked rhetorically. “We aren’t going to let those kids go.”
The Minnesota Department of Education reported that 35.9 percent of Red Lake High School students in the class of 2016 graduated then.