Education

multiracial students, multiethnic students

More Students Refuse to List Race on Forms, Tests

January 22, 2010 12:28 PM
by Colleen Brondou
School registration forms and tests ask students to state their race for measurement purposes, but increasingly, students don’t want to comply.

K-12 & College Students Leave the Race Box Blank

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The federal No Child Left Behind Act mandates that all students, regardless of race, achieve proficiency in math and English by 2014. According to Stephen Magagnini, writing for The Sacramento Bee, the agency is putting pressure on schools to identify race for all students in the 2010-2011 school year, or face penalties.

But students and parents are increasingly reluctant to identify race on tests and forms. In Jeanne Kirchofer’s classroom at Laguna Creek High School in California, for example, approximately “half said they would rather be identified as Americans, erasing race from the boxes,” Magagnini writes.

According to the California Department of Education, from 2006 to 2009, the number of K-12 students that stated their race as “multiple/no response” increased by 70 percent, from 124,000 to 210,000, Magagnini reports.

It’s a growing trend at the college level, too. According to figures from the American Council on Education, from 1994 to 2004, the number of students nationwide that refused to list their races on college applications rose by 144 percent, Jean Cowden Moore reported for the Ventura County Star.

Reactions: Students explain why they skip the race question

Jessica Mae Belcher, a student at Laguna Creek High School whose ethnic background is Cherokee and African, told The Sacramento Bee that she chooses “none of the above” on forms that ask for race. By ignoring racial categories, she believes “we can make racial hatred go away.”

For others that are of mixed race, it can be difficult to decide which race to indicate. As Kirchofer explained to Magagnini, many students are multiracial and “are grappling with this … there are always questions like, ‘What do I fill in? What if I’m two?’”

Amanda Totten, who is white, had different reasons for skipping the race question on her application to California Lutheran University. “It should be based on your grades, extra-curricular activities and SAT scores,” Totten told the Ventura County Star. “It shouldn’t have anything to do with how I look.”

Opinion & Analysis: Is race important?

But as more students skip the race question, more educational institutions are left grappling with how to measure students at the K-12 level, and how to create diversity at the college level.

“I’d love to look at individual kids and leave it at that, but we wouldn’t even know there was an achievement gap if we didn’t measure our kids,” Doug Craig, Laguna Creek High School principal, told The Sacramento Bee. “There must be a systemic reason and we need to figure out what causes it and how to fix it.”

At the college level, not having students’ racial information makes it difficult to determine whether they’re admitting a diverse student body, and “it could make it harder for them to qualify for government grants and other programs that consider diversity,” the Ventura County Star reports.

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