One school district in Washington state has evidently decided that Asians no longer qualify as persons of color.
In their latest equity report, administrators at North Thurston Public Schools—which oversees some 16,000 students—lumped Asians in with whites and measured their academic achievements against “students of color,” a category that includes “Black, Latinx, Native American, Pacific Islander, and Multi-Racial Students” who have experienced “persistent opportunity gaps.”
Most indicators in the report show that the achievement gap between white/Asian students and “students of color” is fairly narrow and improving over time. It would probably be even narrower if Asian students were categorized as “students of color.” In fact, some indicators might have even shown white students lagging behind that catch-all minority group. Perhaps Asians were included with whites in order to avoid such an outcome. (The superintendent did not respond to a request for comment.)
What the equity report really highlights is the absurdities that result from overreliance on semi-arbitrary race-based categories. The report also measured “students of poverty”—those who qualify for free or reduced-cost lunches—against non-poverty students, and unsurprisingly found a much more significant achievement gap. Students of poverty perform 28 percent worse on math tests, for instance. That socioeconomic category captures something real and meaningful in a way that the gerrymandered race category does not.