JASON RANTZ

Rantz: District reclassified Asians with whites when they did too well academically

Dec 15, 2020, 5:48 PM | Updated: Dec 16, 2020, 5:17 am
north thurston public schools...
Students pre-COVID at a North Thurston Public School. (Photo: screen grab)
(Photo: screen grab)

A Washington school district removed Asian students from their “students of color” category after data showed they were doing too well academically. Instead, they were lumped in with white students. It dramatically skewed the overall academic outlook for students of color.

The resulting data was used to imply students of color — minus Asians — were doing worse than white students. Those stats coincidentally supported the district’s progressive worldview, blaming a racist society for inequity.

Only after pushback did the district reverse course, pulling the document down from their website. 

Asian student results skewed data. So they removed them.

North Thurston Public Schools sees the world through a social justice lens where “all” students of color “have experienced persistent opportunity gaps in our society.”

Indeed, the district appears to believe that students of color are disproportionately impacted by policies that better serve white students. But when a minority demographic did better than the district expected, officials reclassified them with white students, skewing the data.

In “Monitoring Student Growth,” a report on student achievements uploaded in November, data from “Students of Color” are separated out to examine “opportunity gaps for historically underserved students of color.” 

Asians, however, did better than other students of color in the district. So well, in fact, that it showed a narrowing opportunity gap. It ends up conflicting with the message that all students of color are victims of inequity. 

Asians aren’t students of color?

The report lists “Asian/Whites” and “Students of Color” as if Asian students aren’t minorities. Progressive activists might refer to this as erasing their identities. And without Asian students represented, it actually provides a wider opportunity gap for minority students to close, painting a far bleaker picture. 

In other words, it plays into the very victim-centered social justice message the district believes. But it’s much worse.

Not only does the disingenuous data paint a falsely bleak picture for minority students, it implies white students are doing better than they actually are. A look at the data from the state, which doesn’t lump whites and Asians together and looks at the data inclusive of all grades (whereas the district looked at specific grade levels), shows white students are performing in some areas nearly identical to minority students.

What the data says

Take, for example, student growth in math and English semester-over-semester. Washington assesses growth via complex calculations comparing students’ previous scores and their current year’s scores to that of their peers. 

In Math, Asian and multi-ethnic students fare the best at 53% growth. American Indian students showed the next highest growth at 52%, followed by Hispanic/Latino at 49%. Both White and Black/African American students came in at 48%. 

When you look at English Language Arts, you see similar results, only with white students slightly outperforming Black student growth (48% to 47%), and Hispanic students (44%) falling slightly behind whites. Again, Asian (54%), multi-ethnic (48%), and American Indian (48%) students outperformed or performed equally well as white students in growth. 

‘We messed up’

The district says their intent wasn’t to obscure data or to slight Asians. But I think that’s exactly what it did. 

“We are going to change the way we categorize student groups. We messed up,” a spokesperson told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. 

On the district webpage, officials argue their “intent was never to ignore Asian students as ‘students of color’ or ignore any systemic disadvantages they too have faced.” They simply wanted to note that “our system is not meeting the instructional needs of our Black, Indigenous, Multi-racial, Pacific Islander and Latinx students.”

But the system does meet the needs of students for growth. That’s why the numbers are up. 

The spokesperson, in an email to the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH, also noted that there are performance issues to address in some demographics and in some classes, particularly fifth and sixth grade math. This is true.

The spokesperson went on to characterize my analysis here as “spin” and not reflective of their intent: “We grouped the Asian students with the white students to show the opportunity gap between those two groups and groups of other students of color. We were looking for a way to show areas where we need improvement.”

But performance is always going to lag growth when you start from behind. Growth statistics show whether or not your strategies are working.

Why’d this happen?

This happened because, generally speaking, too many white progressives view their understanding of racial justice as a movement to use to signal their own virtue.

Too often, many jump on national movements so they can populate their social media channels with posts about how heroic they are for fighting for equality. They brag about their evolution on race. It ends up being condescending. And while they don’t give any up, they sure love to claim they’ve been offered privilege that minority communities lack. 

Yet when minority communities show success, some white progressives who are not yet ready to give up on the good feelings from virtue signaling, simply deny that success. Or they create a new problem for them to play a literal White Knight.

Is this the right approach?

I’m well aware that in 2020, the progressive woke culture demands everyone view everything through a racial equity lens. That’s unlikely to change in 2021.

But that culture is failing these students, unless the district weirdly believes a Black student is not able to learn the same way a white student learns; or an Asian brain is somehow different than a Latino brain. If that’s what they believe, they’re effectively arguing for either segregated classrooms or sacrificing success to bring everyone to an equal grade — no matter what that grade is. I hope that’s not what’s ever on the table.

With such a focus on race, they’ll likely end up changing strategies for reaching students on the basis of their racial identity. If Native American students do poorly in math versus Hispanic students, but Black students do better than white students, you’ll have to come up with four different strategies? That’s inefficient.

Socioeconomic approach

That could work in the short term, I suppose, but what teacher has time to craft curriculum for every racial demographic? You’d end up having spent less time on some students, based on race, to focus on others.

Seems like a better strategy would be to focus on socio-economic status, which extends across the different racial groups. Low-income students have similar issues to overcome. Perhaps they have parents who are not around as much to keep on them to do homework, since they’re working longer hours or more jobs than students who aren’t low income? Maybe they don’t have the money for extra tutoring?

There could be much higher growth and performance with a less race-focused approached. Why? Their race isn’t to blame for their grades, no matter what the school will claim.

Doing this, however, means sacrificing the commitment to viewing absolutely everything through a racial lens. I don’t think the district is ready to do that yet. They’re getting too much “good feels” from the current approach. But what about the kids?

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow @JasonRantz on Twitter, Instagram, and Parler and like me on Facebook

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Rantz: District reclassified Asians with whites when they did too well academically