WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Education is requesting school districts, states and higher education institutions to share information about how they disaggregate data within the Asian American, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander (AANHPI) student population.

Rep. Mazie Hirono

The disaggregated data will allow for the needs of the highly diverse AANHPI community to be better met by identifying academic trends among the more than 45 distinct ethnicities that are currently grouped together as simply “Asian Pacific Islander” under federal education law.

Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) released the following statements May 7 in support of the Request for Information:

Rep. Judy Chu (D-El Monte), CAPAC chair: “I am thrilled that the Department of Education has taken an important first step to changing the way we look at student achievement for our community. There are widespread disparities among Hmong, Laotian and Native Hawaiian students that are invisible to many educators and rarely make headlines. With more comprehensive data about our students, we can provide the targeted resources our community deserves.

“This issue has long been a top priority for CAPAC, and we will continue to fight to include disaggregated data collection in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), CAPAC Education Taskforce chair: “Last fall, CAPAC met with President Obama to ask that data be collected that addresses the diverse student population of the Asian American Pacific Islander community. For example, the federal government lumps 73% of Hawaii’s public school students — whether they’re Native Hawaiian, Filipino, Japanese, Samoan, Chinese or Micronesian — as a single Asian Pacific Islander group. This makes it much harder for educators to address the many unique challenges and needs that may exist.

“Today’s optional Request for Information by the U.S. DOE is not a mandate or a change in policy. It’s a chance to share recommendations and potential challenges about cost-effective ways to collect and use data. I commend the Obama Administration for taking this step. I also encourage educators, advocates, administrators, researchers and members of the public in Hawaii and around the country to participate and share their expertise.”

AANHPIs are a diverse population, woven from different communities with different needs. But often, the community is seen as one in the same. Under No Child Left Behind, federal education law classifies all those from the world’s largest continent as “Asian Pacific Islander.” This leads to the perception that this community is a “model minority” that is highly successful and outperforms its peers in academic achievement.

However, when AANHPI populations are broken down into subgroups, data shows differing levels of academic attainment. The Request for Information by the DOE will be an important first step in properly addressing the diverse academic needs of this community.

The Request for Information is available online at http://1.usa.gov/AANHPIdata. Stakeholders who wish to submit answers to any of the five suggested questions may do so before the deadline of July 3.

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