Too often, the “big picture” masks critical characteristics of the individual parts. Such is the case with aggregate data on student achievement within the diverse, complex and multifaceted Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AAPI) student population in the U.S. To address this question—the importance of disaggregating AAPI student data to reveal disparities between individual AAPI subgroups (i.e., Asian Indians, Hmong, Cambodian, Japanese, etc.), last week the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) partnered with the National Commission on Asian American and Pacific Islander Research in Education (CARE) to host iCount: Equity through Representation, a two-day symposium that addressed the hurdles educational institutions and community groups face to achieving data disaggregation and brainstormed best practices to implementing data disaggregation systems at those institutions.
The event featured a briefing for representatives from philanthropic organizations, panels comprised of representatives from the 40 educational institutions in attendance, and intensive breakout sessions designed to identify concrete solutions to the problem. On the same day, CARE announced the release of its report, which outlines the rationale for disaggregating data to reveal disparities among the many sub-groups. Chief of Racial Statistics at the U.S. Census Bureau, Nicholas Jones, briefed participants on key facts; i.e., that AAPIs are the most diverse ethnic group, as well as the fastest growing, in the U.S. Thus, as each AAPI sub-group is clustered together, the struggles of the more vulnerable sub-groups become masked.
Afternoon Keynote Speaker Congresswoman Judy Chu, Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), and Congressman Mark Takano also provided remarks underscoring the importance of data disaggregation for the community. U.S. Department of Education Under Secretary Martha Kanter discussed the Department’s commitment to AAPI higher education matters, and urged educational institutions to share and promote their best practices on data disaggregation. A plethora of key national AAPI community organizations were also actively engaged in the event, representing the diverse AAPI community.
Don Yu is Special Advisor to the Secretary at the U.S. Department of Education.
Kiran Ahuja is Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.