Since the advent of NO Child Left Behind (NCLB), education in general has become more data-driven. Now students in the Washington, DC area will be able to select a more specific racial destinction. The Washington Post today reports that a new way of classifying students will give parents more options and will give educators and bureacrats at the Dept. of Education more detailed information.
For decades, students have been counted in one of five racial and ethnic groups: American Indian or Alaska native; Asian or Pacific Islander; Hispanic; non-Hispanic black; or non-Hispanic white. The categories date to the 1960s and were standardized in 1977 to promote affirmative action and monitor discrimination in housing, employment, voting rights and education.
Starting in 2010, under Education Department rules approved two years ago to comply with a government-wide policy shift, parents will be able to check all boxes that apply in a two-step questionnaire with reshaped categories. First, they will indicate whether a student is of Hispanic or Latino origin, or not. (The two terms will encompass one group.) Then they will identify a student as one or more of the following: American Indian or Alaska native; Asian; black or African American; native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander; or white.
The new rules will allow students and parents to recognize bi-racial students and not force students to disregard part of their culture. Since so many components of NCLB involve data, it will supposedly be more difficult for certain groups of kids fall between the cracks.
During the 2000 census, approximately 6.8 people were identified as multi-racial. Civil Rights groups feel that reclassifying is needed.
Many civil rights advocates agree that it’s necessary to document the growing number of multiracial students, but they say these categories will mask valuable information about race that could be used to analyze educational challenges some groups face. They say it would be more accurate to report the data in detail, with racial and ethnic combinations.
“If we don’t know that some multiracial, Hispanic and black students are doing worse,” said Melissa Herman, a sociologist at Dartmouth College, “we can conveniently ignore that they are doing worse.”
Not all schools will be using the new categories right away. For now, 15 states plan to use the new system of categorizing.
Does NCLB invade privacy? Should we know if a child is economically deprived? Do we need to track race so closely? When is too much information too much?