The state of Texas has a tendency to do things its own way when it comes to education.
It is one of only a handful of states that have not adopted the Common Core State Standards. The Lone Star state’s textbook adoption process routinely grabs headlines. Now, according to this story in the Houston Chronicle, Texas has decided not to count the standardized test scores of multiracial students in the state’s accountability ratings.
Texas will continue to count only white, black and Hispanic students. That goes against the trend in many other states that now include several categories for racial and ethnic groups, including one 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.
As the story points out, the categories are used to produce test data that determine campus rankings and pay, and are often used by researchers. Poor performance among one group can even result in campus closures.
What is your state doing? And how will it affect accountability ratings? Does your state allow Latino students to mark themselves as multiracial? (Texas does not).
Most importantly, how accurate is the data?
That question alone could be the basis for a long-term investigative piece. As a teacher (with the nose of a journalist), I remember looking at the records for my students and finding that all my Latino students had been tagged as Alaskan-Pacific Islander. It immediately raised all sorts of questions for me about how their test scores were being categorized and what role that played in the school’s rating.
It turned out to be a computer glitch that was corrected before testing, and all the students were correctly identified on state tests. But what if the same thing is happening in other schools – by error or by design? It’s worth looking into.