Department of Education Seeks Data on Separate Asian American Ethnicities with Assistance from Community Groups

Monday, Jun 4, 2012

As part of its agency plan to improve access for Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islanders (AANHPIs), the Department of Education has announced that it is seeking to gather information on how state education agencies, school districts, and higher education institutions disaggregate data on AANHPI students. The Department of Education will then use the information to develop best practices and policies to improve and increase data disaggregation by AANHPI subgroups. The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC), and Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) are leading the effort to ensure that community members know about and respond to the request.

"The diverse needs of Asian American youth have been too often overlooked due to past practices of lumping them within one catch-all category," said Khin Mai Aung, Director of the Educational Equity Program at AALDEF. "In reality, there are significant disparities in educational achievement across Asian American subgroups. The administration has responded to our advocacy by requesting information on how to document these differences. On behalf of all Asian American youth, we are working to ensure the success of this crucial initiative."

Contrary the model minority myth, disparities within the AANHPI community continue to persist. For example, the 2010 U.S. Census reveals that 37 percent of Cambodian Americans, 38 percent of Hmong Americans, 33 percent of Laotian Americans, and 29 percent of Vietnamese Americans over 25 years of age had less than a high school education in 2010, compared with only 5.4 percent of Japanese-Americans and 7 percent of Indonesian-Americans. In California, a recent study by UCLA found that over a four-year period, one-fifth of Pacific Islander students in grades 9-12 are estimated to drop out.

"For many years, our organizations have made the case that the collection of disaggregated data is instrumental to developing a more complete understanding of the educational needs of Asian American and Pacific Islander students," said Doua Thor, executive director of SEARAC. "The Department of Education's announcement is an exciting first step in the right direction, and we now need to work together to ensure that community members know and respond to this important request."

Toward this end, AALDEF, SEARAC, and APALA have developed a toolkit to help community members understand the commenting process as well as how to reach out to their schools and school districts to do the same. The organizations will also host a series of webinars for community members to learn more about this initiative. The deadline to submit comments to the Department of Education is July 3. More information about the toolkit and webinars can be found online at

Gregory Cendana, executive director of APALA added, "When collected, disaggregated data will be tremendously helpful for our members and educators who are in the classrooms with our students every day and are familiar with the diverse needs of AANHPI students but have not had the data to back up the anecdotal evidence. We are committed to helping the administration achieve a better understanding of the educational disparities within AANHPI communities, and we need to hear from the community at every level so we can begin to address these disparities."

Ujala Sehgal,, (212) 966-5932 x217
Pang Houa Moua Toy,, (202) 667-4690 x107
Diana Bui,, (202) 508-3733

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