Published March 16, 2010 – The Olympian
VENICE BUHAIN; Staff writer
OLYMPIA - South Sound schools will soon see their diversity at a new level, as schools throughout the state reclassify families by ethnicity as part of new state guidelines.
The six ethnic and racial groupings for which the state has collected information – white, black, Asian, Pacific Islander, Hispanic or American Indian – will be expanded to nearly 60.
The possibilities include all the federally recognized American Indian tribes in Washington, more than a dozen different Asian nationalities, and eight different Hispanic nationalities.
According to officials at the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, federal guidelines soon will require all students to be categorized by race. Students whose families do not answer the form must be categorized by the district, according to OSPI officials.
Families can choose all of the ethnic backgrounds that apply to their children, so multiracial and multi- ethnic families can choose more than one, said Chris Barron, spokesman at the OSPI.
The change was recommended by the state’s ethnic commissions to identify strategies to close the achievement gap.
In 2008, the Legislature commissioned reports on the achievement gap for students who are black or of Hispanic, Asian or American Indian descent. The commissions reported that within the racial and ethnic categories, there was cultural and social diversity not being reflected consistently in the state data.
“We wanted a disaggregation in who our student population was, so we could get a clearer picture,” said Frieda Takamura, a former teacher and a member of the Washington State Commission of Asian Pacific American Affairs.
Takamura said that the group that researched Asian American and Pacific Islander children showed that some of the subgroups of students don’t fit the stereotype of the high-scoring Asian Americans. The report also showed that some subgroups of Asians have higher instances of English Language Learners and families in poverty than Asian American families as a whole.
“It is the hidden achievement gap,” Takamura said.
Visit the Website