North Thurston Public Schools, a school district in Washington, came under fire recently for categorizing Asian students as "white" instead of "students of color" in a performance report. Next Shark reports that the district, which is comprised of 22 schools and about 16,000 students, did this to "boost the growth rate of underperforming groups."
In other words, they basically thought that Asian students performed too well to be considered "students of color" because they perceive "students of color" to experience "opportunity gaps." So they decided to strip Asian students of their identities and lump them in with white students.
Some were upset that the school district would separate its students and evaluate performance based on race at all. Others were unable to fathom a reason that Asian students would be lumped in with white students.
In response, Asian students said things like, "All I'm saying is that if that Washington school district really considers Asians to be non-POC I'm expecting my privilege to arrive in the mail in 2-23 business days."
Just because Asian students are statistically successful in this school district doesn't mean they don't suffer from racism and oppression. They simply don't experience white privilege, so why would you lump them in with white students who do?
In a statement, the school district said, "One of our district's Strategic Plan goals is Continuous Growth — All Students, All Subjects. One of the outcomes we are working towards in this goal is to have an 'increased growth rate of underperforming groups eliminating achievement and opportunity gaps.'
"For this reason, in one of our online documents from 2019, titled 'Monitoring Student Growth,' we evaluated the achievement data by 'Students of Color' and 'Students of Poverty.' In the document we grouped white and Asian students together.
"Upon reflection and response by members of the Asian-American community, we will change how we look at achievement data and appreciate the feedback we received. We apologize for the negative impact we have caused and removed the monitoring report from our website.
"We feel it is important to continue the practice of disaggregating data, so we make equity-based decisions. It shows that currently our Asian and white students are showing continuous growth while our system is not meeting the instructional needs of our Black, Indigenous, Multi-racial, Pacific Islander, and Latinx students. The intent was never to ignore Asian students as 'students of color' or ignore any systemic disadvantages they too have faced."
How school districts decide to delineate resources and provide support for their students is a complex issue, but denying the identity of an entire population of Asian-American students isn't the answer.
North Thurston Public Schools has committed to "learn from this and do better in the future" when it comes to extracting performance data and delineating categories of students for evaluation purposes.