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The Obsession With Outcomes by Race

With public schools in this country increasingly populated by students of different cultures and races, we have become  obsessed with reporting their performance accordingly.  California serves as a case in point ("The term 'Asian' may be overly broad but California is stuck with it," Los Angeles Times, Oct. 21).

Early in October, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would have required educational data to be broken down into ethnic and other sub categories.  He correctly understood that further stratification is useless. The reaction by Asian leaders and activists was swift.  They claimed that allowing the label "Asian" alone would not provide more needed nuanced data.

I agree that Asians are not a monolith. Although they are considered the model minority, Asians vary in their performance.  For example, about 70 percent of Indian Americans older than 25 in California hold bachelor's degrees.  That compares with only 10 percent of Laotian Americans older than 25 in the state. Hmong immigrants arrive poor and remain one of the poorest ethnic groups in California, while Taiwanese immigrants arrive with more money and now rank among the state's most affluent groups.

But neither are blacks a monolith for that matter.  Blacks from Jamaica and Trinidad, for example, on average enjoy greater success than those born in this country.  The same can be said about Hispanics. Outcomes differ between, say, those from Mexico and those from Central and South America.  The point is that I don't believe the obsession with culture and race will do much to improve matters.

We already have enough information to create programs for struggling students, and we know who they are. The task now is to implement them. I fail to see the need to further disaggregate data.  

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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