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Better data disaggregation needed to successfully support our students

Recently, the Community Center for Education Results published our annual Road Map Project regional Results Report and, in it, we used a conventional data reporting method to present a summary snapshot showing the magnitude of our region’s race and ethnic gaps in student achievement.

To calculate and present gaps over time, we looked at the two top-performing student subgroups and we compared them to the others. The difference we called the “gap.” This is a typical way of looking at gaps and is commonly used by states and various education researchers — and it is flawed.

The race/ethnic categories themselves are very blunt instruments. For example, the category called “Asian” has myriad subcategories. If we only look at the broad, federally mandated categories, we mask very real challenges faced by students and their families. Furthermore, by taking the top two-performing groups and putting them together the way we did, we grouped Asians and Whites together, which is also wrong in many ways. I am grateful to the Asian Pacific Islander Coalition, Asian Counseling and Referral Service, Equity in Education Coalition, SE Asian Education Coalition, Southeast Seattle Education Coalition, Vietnamese Friendship Association, Washington State Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs and White Center Community Development Association for bringing this issue to our attention. We will not take this approach to showing the gap again.

Every broad race category has flaws. In each are students who are experiencing major systemic challenges. We need finer-grained disaggregated information so actions can be tailored appropriately to real student and community needs. Recently passed legislation should help advance this important cause. We look forward to keeping this important issue at the forefront of the region’s advocacy efforts.

I have reflected a lot about these data reporting issues and I want to offer an apology. We used a status quo method when we should have been fighting the status quo. We will change our reporting methods and we will ask our diverse communities to help guide us. Thank you again to all the community leaders who brought these issues forward.

Mary Jean Ryan
Executive Director,
Community Center for Education Results