Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) students are a dynamic and heterogeneous group with great promise and even greater challenges. Yet methods of collecting and reporting data on their academic attainment conceal significant disparities in educational experiences and outcomes, according to a new report released Thursday, June 6 at a symposium in Washington, D.C.
The report, iCount: A Data Quality Movement for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Higher Education, highlights the need for, and benefits of, collecting and reporting disaggregated data for these students. The authors also offer recommendations for meeting this challenge to ensure a more effective and responsive system of education.
The National Commission on Asian American and Pacific Islander Research in Education (CARE) and Educational Testing Service (ETS) produced the study. The ETS Center for Advocacy and Philanthropy provided funding. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP) also provided financial assistance.
“Continued use of data that treat AAPIs as an aggregate group is problematic,” said Robert T. Teranishi, Associate Professor of Higher Education at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University (NYU), and one of the report’s authors. “Doing so conceals the unique challenges faced by AAPIs relative to the U.S. education system. Simply put, the aggregation of AAPI subgroups into a single data category is a civil rights issue that has yet to be resolved.”
”Data disaggregated for individual subgroups — by race, ethnicity, gender and other demographic distinctions — raises awareness about issues and challenges that impact subgroups disproportionately,” Teranishi said. “Identifying such disparities in attainment and achievement enables higher education practitioners and policymakers to target resources where they are needed. Accordingly, disaggregated data are essential tools for advocacy and social justice, shedding light on ways to mitigate disparities in educational outcomes and improve support for the most marginalized and vulnerable populations.”
“We’ve been interested in this issue since our 1997 report, Diversity among Asian American High School Students, issued jointly with the Asian American Federation of New York,” said Stephen Lazer, Vice President of Student and Teacher Assessment at ETS. “We have also included Asian Americans in our numerous achievement gap reports. However, like many other studies, the aggregated data on this group were not very helpful in understanding the complexities and challenges faced by these underserved groups of students. ETS is pleased to ￼help bring awareness of this issue to a national audience and seek solutions.”
The report shows that while aggregated data presents this group as a single entity, disaggregated data show very different levels of educational attainment.
For example, subgroups from East Asia (Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese and Koreans) and South Asia (Asian Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis) are more likely to have a bachelor’s degree or greater as their highest level of education. For other ethnic groups, a very different pattern emerges. Southeast Asians (Hmong, Cambodians, Laotians and Vietnamese) and Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are much more likely to not complete high school.
A similar pattern exists for these groups in median household income.
The authors highlight several successful initiatives using disaggregated data, including the “Count Me In” campaign at the University of California system. The university initially recognized eight ethnic subgroups, but a campaign to broaden the number of subgroups led them to include 23 AAPI subcategories on the UC undergraduate application.
“These disaggregated data have allowed administrators in our system to see what student populations are underrepresented on our campus,” said Judy Sakaki, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at UC Davis. “Second, they have informed campuswide policies, programs and services, so that resources are used more effectively. Third, professors and researchers have a rich data source for understanding the AAPI student population. And these data have allowed for a clearer picture of the realities and barriers to higher education for AAPI subgroups that are too often overlooked and underserved.”
The University of Hawaii (UH) System has used disaggregated data since 1986 to track educational progress and identify barriers that Native Hawaiians face in postsecondary education.
“The data show that while 73 out of 100 AAPI high school graduates will persist to earn a college degree, the rate of completion for Native Hawaiians (25 out of 100) is much lower,” says Pearl Iboshi, Director of Institutional Research and Analysis, University of Hawaii. “Put another way, 75 percent of Native Hawaiians will have a high school diploma as the highest level of education they will earn.”
The report also highlights the University of Guam’s use of disaggregated data to study and serve a diverse population of students from not only Guam but throughout the Asian Pacific region.
“Using disaggregated data has allowed us to address student success and retention,” said Robert Underwood, President of the University of Guam (UOG). “It was also instrumental in UOG becoming an Asian American Native American Pacific Islander service institution and obtaining grants to fund programmatic efforts on recruitment, retention and graduation. We have also developed a mentorship program, provide tutoring services and offer targeted academic advisement.”
A Call to Action
Several implications emerge from this research centered on needs assessment, data collection procedures and data reporting practices, the authors note. There must be momentum for change in which campuses that do not disaggregate data explore with student groups and local community groups whether there is a need or rationale for pursuing changes to their datasets.
A single standard for ethnic subgroup categories to collect data on AAPI students does not exist; universities, therefore, need to collect disaggregated data using categories that make sense for representing the demography unique to their students.
And, regardless of the method, it is important for disaggregated data to be accessible for use by institutional researchers, administrators, faculty and students engaged in the assessment and evaluation of campus services and programs.
Finally, systemic reform about the collection, reporting and use of disaggregated data can best be facilitated through partnerships and working groups. These efforts should be supported by philanthropy to offset the cost associated with changing systems and creating a broader network of support, the authors note.
The U.S. Department of Education can also play a role in providing guidance and technical assistance to institutions and, more importantly, collecting and reporting disaggregated student population data.
“The misrepresentation of the AAPI population through aggregated data has been a key barrier to policy and program development that advances the equitable treatment for the AAPI community,” Teranishi said. “Now is the time to address this issue given the fact that data driven decisions are more prevalent than ever. Moreover, an effort to collect and report more refined data is important not only for the AAPI community, but for the nation as a whole as
it becomes increasingly diverse and heterogeneous. How we respond to the changing face of America will determine our future as a nation.”
For the full report, visit: www.nyu.edu/projects/care/docs…
The National Commission on Asian American and Pacific Islander Research in Education (CARE) identifies and examines key issues affecting Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) student access and success in U.S. higher education. The CARE project is informed by a national commission, consisting of K–12 and higher education professionals, policymakers and public officials, researchers and leaders of advocacy organizations, as well as a research advisory group and a research team.
CARE aims to assess AAPI participation in higher education across various U.S. regions with consideration for the differences in socioeconomic, ethnic and national backgrounds among these students.
At ETS, we advance quality and equity in education for people worldwide by creating assessments based on rigorous research. ETS serves individuals, educational institutions and government agencies by providing customized solutions for teacher certification, English language learning, and elementary, secondary and postsecondary education, as well as conducting education research, analysis and policy studies.
Founded as a nonprofit in 1947, ETS develops, administers and scores more than 50 million tests annually — including the TOEFL and TOEIC tests, the GRE test and The Praxis SeriesTM assessments — in more than 180 countries, at more than 9,000 locations worldwide.
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