More than just “Asian” — New bill hopes to improve on student data

By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly

U.S. Congressman Mike Honda stood up for the All Students Count Act at a rally in Washington D.C. on July 31.  Congressman Honda, a Democrat from California, proposed a bill, the All Students Count Act, which requires state education agencies to report more enhanced data in their annual state report cards to used enhanced race categories. The Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) is in full support of this initiative, as the organization feels it has been underrepresented due to underreporting.

“The time has come to stop grouping students of different backgrounds together when compiling data,” Congressman Honda wrote in a post on his official Facebook page.

“Without better reporting for the dozens of distinct groups that fall under the term “Asian,” our school systems will continue to erase the unique needs, histories, and challenges facing Asian American and Pacific Islander students.”

The goal of the bill is to ensure that student demographics provide a clearer picture and the different experiences of boys and girls within the nation’s schools allow policymakers and educators the opportunity to closely examine ways to improve. One of the purposes SEARAC sees in the proposed law is that it would address the needs of Southeast Asian American students who come from recent refugee and immigrant families.

It was not until the fall of 2013 that university administration at California State University Sacramento learned that Hmong Americans represented the second largest Asian American student population on campus.  The reason for the failure to discover this earlier was due to student data records which left a large “Other Asian” category.

“Data has the power to reveal and the power to conceal. For too long, the true challenges of Asian American students from kindergarten to high school have been masked by combining all Asian American students under one category.  The All Students Count Act allows our students to move beyond the ‘Asian’ check box, to see a richer, fuller picture across subgroups,” said Quyen Dinh, executive director at SEARAC.

According to the American Community Survey, disaggregated data shows only 67% of Cambodian, 65% of Hmong, 68% of Laotian, and 70% of Vietnamese Americans aged 25 and older hold a high school degree or higher.

While the proposed law would impact only annual state report cards at the elementary and secondary level, SEARAC would like the reporting of disaggregated data whenever possible.

SEARAC joined over 150 national and local organizations from 27 states, 100 youth and community members who rallied in front of the nation’s capital on July 31st, and a nationwide student-driven photo tumblr campaign in applauding the proposed legislation for ensuring that currently underserved students will be both acknowledged and accounted for, as well as providing policymakers and educators information needed to improve educational opportunities for all students. (end)

Jason Cruz can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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