It will tally multiracial students but not report their scores separately
By JENNIFER RADCLIFFE | HOUSTON CHRONICLE
July 25, 2011
Multiracial students are being tallied for the first time in Texas history, but their standardized test scores won't appear as a separate group when accountability ratings are released Friday.
As it grapples with increasing diversity, Texas has opted not to measure the scores of the state's 78,419 multiracial, non-Hispanic students as an ethnic subgroup whose performance matters in determining whether a school made "adequate yearly progress."
Instead, they'll join the ranks of the 180,000 Asian students lumped in with their schools' entire student body for accountability purposes.
Texas continues to only hold three racial subgroups accountable: whites, blacks and Hispanics. Other states have expanded their systems to measure as many as eight ethnic and racial groups.
"I don't know why Texas would go back, while the rest of the country is going forward," said Susan Graham, a founder of Project RACE, a California-based group that advocates for multiracial students.
Racial and ethnic categories are important not only to students' sense of identity, but also to the researchers and educators who depend on accurate data on high-stakes tests to determine campus rankings and bonus pay, among other decisions. Schools can face sanctions as serious as being closed based on the performance of students in one ethnic subgroup.
A 2007 federal mandate now requires all states to ask student whether they are Hispanic or not Hispanic, and then whether they are white, black, Asian, American Indian or one of two new categories — Native Hawaiian or two or more races.
While Hispanic students may identify themselves as multiracial, the federal government has ruled that they won't be included in that tally. They want accurate results, but they don't want to gather cumbersome amounts of data.
"Through this system, there will be no double reporting of persons identifying with multiple races," according to a U.S. Department of Education document on the decision.
It's up to each state, however, to decide which racial groups to measure separately in its ratings. The Texas Education Agency has said a racial group should make up at least 10 percent of the state's student population to trigger inclusion.
African Americans, the smallest group in Texas, slipped to 13 percent in 2010, down 1 percentage point with the introduction of the multiracial category.
About 1.6 percent of Texas students identify themselves as "two or more races." (The percentage jumps to 3.4 when you exclude the 2.5 million Hispanic students who are ineligible under the federal guidelines.)
While Texas is sticking to its three racial categories, California - where 1.8 percent of student are multiracial - is among those expanding to include the group. Any California school with more than 100 multiracial students will be measured on those students' performance. State officials weren't sure how many campuses, if any, had a high enough concentration to be included in the ratings, which will be released there in August.
Some scores moved
As Texas transitions to the new categories this year, state officials have opted to return some multiracial students' scores to their previous category, if records indicate that the student was originally listed as white or African American. Their scores will only count in that previous category if they improve the school's rating.
State officials said they're aware of the concerns that could be created this year by allowing students to be moved between categories. The TEA will analyze data from districts and campuses with significant discrepancies in the percentages of multiracial students between fall 2010 and spring 2011, spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson said.
Houston-area officials said they aren't sure what the new categories will mean to their ratings. Many districts have small numbers of multiracial students - Galena Park reported 110 - so chances are they would be inconsequential this year.
But the category is expected to grow quickly. Texas had 679,001 people self-identify as "two or more races" in the 2010 Census, up 32 percent from 2000.
'Part of both of us'
Advocates worry that the new guidelines don't allow students to accurately and specifically report their race and ethnicity. Many Hispanics, for instance, feel discounted because they cannot be considered multiracial, Graham said.
West Orange-Cove ISD parent Evelyn Smith is glad she no longer has to decide whether she should mark her mixed-race children as white or African-American. While they may look more like their father, Smith said she didn't like being cut out of the genetic equation.
"They're part of both of us," she said.
But the additional category is a hurdle for researchers attempting to track trends over time, said Bob Sanborn, CEO of Children at Risk, a Houston-based advocacy group.
"If you're trying to understand school performance under a microscope, mixed race is not really helpful," he said. "Multiracial doesn't act in a particular way."
Educators could, however, use the category to hide children whose performance could hurt another subgroup, he said.
"I like the idea of a mixed race category. I think it's a reflection of reality," Sanborn said. "It's a good thing for society. Researchers are going to have to adjust."
The latest standardized tests in Texas add two subgroups.
• Hispanic: 2,480,000
• White: 1,538,409
• Black: 637,722
• Asian: 169,338
• 2 or More Races: 78,419
• American Indian: 23,602
• Native Hawaiian: 6,127
• Hispanic: 2,354,042
• White: 1,615,459
• Black: 679,351
• Native American: 18,984
• Asian / Pacific Islander: 180,008
2010 breakdown for Texas' non-Hispanic "2 or more race" students
• 29,770 were Black/African American and white
• 14,980 were white and Asian
• 14,810 were American Indian/Alaska Native and white
• Remainder were distributed among 23 other combinations