Recognizing that some Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have more educational disparities than others do, the U.S. Department of Education has launched a new, $1 million grant program aimed at improving college and career prospects.
State education agencies can apply for federal monies supporting their efforts to collect and evaluate disaggregated data of AAPIs in educational institutions and in English-language learning programs beyond the existing seven racial and ethnic categories. Such statistics help determine which ethnicities have less access to formal schooling than others and which subgroups are less likely to complete degree and certificate programs. The data shape tutoring, mentoring and other outreach to disadvantaged AAPIs.
“AAPIs are our fastest-growing racial group, and with this rapid growth comes rich, cultural and linguistic diversity that’s a huge asset to our country,” said Education Secretary John B. King Jr. “At the same time, there’s urgent need to address daily challenges that AAPIs face. Many AAPIs face the model minority myth—the notion that virtually all of them have access to quality education and are affluent—which has prevented AAPIs from fully benefiting from federal programs and resources that can support vulnerable and underserved people. In reality, the AAPI community is not a monolithic group. They face unique challenges—including in education.”
King called the new grant program “a foundational step in addressing opportunity gaps.”
He noted that AAPIs trace their ancestries to more than 300 countries and racial groups combined and that more than 100 different languages are spoken by these subgroups.
Called the “AAPI Data Disaggregation Initiative,” the grant program is the latest endeavor by federal officials to encourage educators to find and address disparities.
Since 2013, federal officials have convened symposia that brought together policymakers, data specialists and experts in demography and institutional research to discuss ways of developing data systems and solutions that benefit AAPIs in K-12 and higher education.
Symposia participants also have examined disaggregated data collection efforts at individual campuses to try to replicate them elsewhere.
For instance, disaggregated data at the University of Guam illustrated the heterogeneity of Pacific Islanders, who made up about half the enrollment in 2011, according to a report by the National Commission on Asian American and Pacific Islander Research in Education (CARE). The university collected data on four Chamorro and seven Micronesian subgroups.
According to the CARE report, the data helped support the university’s successful application for a $261,000 federal grant as an Asian American Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution. The AANAPISI grant financed enrichment activities such as a mentorship program, tutoring services and targeted academic advising. The mentoring improved student retention by matching 181 students with on-campus administrators or faculty members. And the completion rate of students in developmental math courses increased 14 percent, thanks to the tutoring.
In 2006, the University of California, Los Angeles student newspaper published an article stating the UC system was admitting “an unprecedented number of Asian students” that, for the first time, vaulted them ahead of Whites as the racial group making up the largest share of admissions, the CARE report stated.
Upset by the notion that they were uniformly privileged, Asian American and Pacific Islander students at UCLA insisted that many ethnic subgroups were underrepresented on campus and, partly because of this, disadvantaged. They, along with AAPI students at other UC campuses, called for administrators to expand and refine their data collection and reporting. The following year, the UC Office of the President announced that it would, on its standardized UC application for undergraduate admissions, expand the number of AAPI ethnicities from eight to 23.
Before long, university officials began receiving data supporting the students’ claims about AAPI heterogeneity and educational disparities. Student-run organizations at multiple UC campuses have since used the data for funding proposals and to advocate for student needs and to fine-tune their retention efforts.
Last September, CARE and the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders co-hosted a symposium of educators and learning advocates to continue discussion about the collection and utilization of better data and to explore opportunities for regional and local collaboration.
“Educational data too often lumps all AAPI subgroups together, masking the needs of those who need the most assistance, including Southeast Asians, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders,” said Akil Vohra, director of strategic initiatives at the White House Initiative.
Coinciding with the symposium eight months ago, Education Department officials announced that it would appoint one of its staff members to act as an AAPI community liaison. They also announced that they would produce a report by this fall with the National Forum on Education Statistics on best practices for the disaggregation of race and ethnicity categories.
Regarding the new, $1 million federal grant program, applications for funding are due in July, but state agencies must notify the Education Department by May 24 that they intend to apply.