Frequently Asked Questions
Why is data collected on race and ethnicity?
Since 1977, federal agencies – including the U.S Department of Education (USED) — have been collecting race and ethnicity information. The data is required for eligibility for federal education funds and for accountability reports. By fall 2010, the federal government is requiring that ethnic and racial information for all students be reported in a new way to more accurately reflect the nation’s diversity.
What is going to be different?
Individuals will be allowed to select more than one race and/or ethnicity that will more accurately reflect their heritage.
Previously school divisions reported data according to five racial/ethnicity categories (each student was identified by one and only one category):
- American Indian or Alaskan Native
- Asian or Pacific Islander
- Black, not Hispanic
- White, not Hispanic
The new standards include four major changes:
- A two-part question format is being used to allow individuals to more accurately report their heritage.
- The term “Hispanic” has been changed to “Hispanic or Latino.”
- The previous category “Asian or Pacific Islander” has been separated into two new categories: “Asian” and “Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander”
- Individuals will be able to select one or more races from the five racial groups.
According to the new USED reporting standards, the data for each student will be collected in a two-part question format.
- Part One – Choose only one to complete this question “Is this person …”
- Hispanic or Latino
- Not Hispanic or Latino
- Part Two – Select one or more of the following categories that apply to this person:
- American Indian or Alaska Native
- Black or African American
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander
Why is there a two-part question format?
The first part of the survey concerns ethnicity and asks whether or not the respondent is Hispanic or Latino. Hispanic or Latino is defined as a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South American, Central American or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race.
The second part of the survey concerns race and allows the respondent to select one or more races from five groups:
- American Indian or Alaska Native is defined as a person having origins in any of the original peoples of North America, South America and Central America and who maintains a tribal affiliation or community attachment.
- Asian is defined as a person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia or the Indian subcontinent. (Examples include peoples from Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand and Vietnam.)
- Black or African American is defined as a person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa.
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander is defined as a person having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa or other Pacific Islands.
- White is defined as a person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East or North Africa.
Is it required to answer both questions?
Yes, both parts of the question require a response. Even if a student is Hispanic or Latino, it is necessary to answer the second part of the question. A respondent selects one ethnicity code and one or more race codes, for a total of 62 different possible combinations.
Who makes the racial/ethnicity determination?
The USED encourages self-reporting by parents or students. However, if they choose not to report, school personnel should provide the information.
What if the survey is not returned or if the person refuses to complete the questionnaire?
If a form is not completed or returned for each student, the school is still responsible for reporting the information. The new federal guidelines mandate that a designated school division employee will fill out the form using the visual observation to make a determination of race and ethnicity.
How will this information be used?
The new information will be used in the same manner that previous race/ethnicity data were used for collecting and reporting. The Virginia Department of Education uses race and ethnicity data collected from school divisions only in the aggregate.
Will information from this survey be used by the federal government to check a student’s immigration status?
No. The survey does not have any questions about citizenship or immigration status … only race and ethnicity.
How can a parent be assured that this information remains private?
The information will not be reported to any federal agency in a manner that identifies any individual.
Race and ethnicity information is considered a part of a student’s scholastic record. School divisions are responsible for adhering strictly to state and federal statues designed to safeguard information contained in scholastic records. Guidelines for the Management of the Student’s Scholastic Record in the Public Schools of Virginia (PDF) provides additional information.
Is other information available?
Yes. Managing an Identity Crisis: Forum Guide to Implementing New Federal Race and Ethnicity Categories (PDF) from the National Forum on Education Statistics provides additional information.