Race section leads to questions

By Becky Wolfson

For some CHS students, an incredibly challenging part of taking a standardized test is not the test itself, but having to fill in a bubble indicating racial and ethnic background. Standardized tests do not give enough options for multiracial students to bubble in their race.

By having limited racial and ethnic options for students on these types of tests, the College Board is not collecting accurate data and causing students to feel under-represented. The boxes provided to fill in racial and ethnic background are too general and not illustrative of all students.

The College Board, which administers the PSAT, SAT and AP exams, should provide clearer directions on their tests noting that multiracial students can fill in two or more bubbles.

By explaining that multiracial students do not have to choose just one race, the College Board will be receiving more accurate data because when multiracial students are provided with the option to choose only one race, they commonly choose their minority race. This is due to the fact that college admissions offices have a reputation for prioritizing the assembly of a diverse student body.

According to Maria Eugenia Alcón-Heraux, Director of Media Relations at The College Board, race and ethnicity options come from the U.S. Department of Education (U.S.D.E) standards for collecting data.

The U.S.D.E standards were updated in 2007 and allow a student to self-identify his or her race and ethnicity by selecting more than one racial or ethnic designation. Additionally, the standards require the use of a two-part question on ethnicity and race.

According to Project Race, an organization for multiracial advocacy, race refers to a subgroup of humans that possess common physical or genetic characteristics. Ethnicity refers to a specific social group with unique cultural heritage.

Two people can have the same race, but different ethnic groups. However, the format of the U.S.D.E question merely covers the ethnicity of a Hispanic or Non-Hispanic individual.

According to the U.S.D.E, an example two-part questions first asks, What is this person’s ethnicity? This leaves students to choose between Hispanic or Latino or Not Hispanic or Latino. The rest of the example question states, What is this person’s race?, allowing students to choose White, Black or African American, Asian, American Indian or Alaska Native and/or Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander.

In certain situations, the ethnicity question can be expanded to include subcategories of Asian, in addition to Hispanic.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), when a sample size is sufficient, the NCES can expand the ethnicity question to ask, Is this person of Asian descent? The answer choices include Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Pakistani, Indian and other.

Due to the fact that CHS has a large Asian population, CHS should be using the additional ethnicity question in order to subdivide the Asian option. Asia is a continent and all Asians should not be grouped together just because the culture in Asia is similar.

Despite the five major categories previously determined by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in 1977 and offered again in the 2007 U.S.D.E update, there is no “multiracial” or “other race” category available for individuals.

While it is a step in the right direction to allow students to choose more than one racial option, questions still remain about the consequences of choosing more than one race.

College admissions offices have been conflicted in the past about wanting to give students greater freedom to identify their backgrounds, without being taken advantage of.

According to a 2011 New York Times article, college admissions offices at Rice, Stanford and Emory felt that by allowing students this freedom, they would also need to be more aware of manipulation by students seeking to stretch their ties to certain races.

Therefore, the implementation of a separate “multiracial” or “other” category would improve the accuracy of education institutions’ data and combat the issue of students who only have a tiny amount of heritage from taking advantage of the 2007 policy.

These changes should be made immediately as the number of multiracial individuals in America is growing.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, there were 9 million people that chose two or more races in 2010.

The most effective way for the U.S. Department of Education to get accurate data would be to take a hint from the U.S. Census and offer an additional category for “multiracial” or “other”.

According to the 2010 Census, there are 57 possible multiple race combinations involving the five race categories determined by the OMB and the category “Other”. The Census states that the best way to compare the multiple-race data between the 2000 and 2010 censuses is to examine changes in specific race combinations.

Educational institutions that administer standardized tests aren’t trying to be racist or offensive. They merely want a clean, easy way to collect racial data.

Considering the multitude of racial options possible by including an extra multiracial category, educational institutions feel that the data they are collecting is accurate enough for their usage.

According to Principal Joan Benz, the data is used in Montgomery County to break down test results by race and gender in order to combat the achievement gap. The data can verify that certain groups of students are struggling and those schools will be able to better direct their instruction to combat this.

Despite all the progress that has been made in racial and ethnic equality, at what point will Americans need to consider eliminating these questions that make us incredibly focused on racial and ethnic divisions? If American culture is working towards being racially blind, why do we even ask for race and ethnicity?