January 16, 2018
Dr. Brenda Cassellius Commissioner of Education Minnesota Department of Education (MDE)
Dear Commissioner Cassellius:
The passage of the All Kids Count Act in 2016 was historic and made Minnesota among a few states in the nation to require its education agency to disaggregate student data. Our communities are anxious to see that it is implemented as intended. There are profound resource implications to communities who have needs which have gone unnoticed. Collecting disaggregated data and reporting it is an affirmation of the needs of those communities, and moves us towards ensuring that their children will receive the kinds of responsive support they need.
Thank you for your leadership in moving the All Kids Count Act into implementation. We and a number of organizations representing diverse racial communities and education policy groups have and continue to support the All Kids Count Act because we understand that having better data is good for families and good for education leaders who must decide what to do with the limited resources they have to ensure every child has a great education. So, on behalf of those organizations and countless parents and community leaders, we want to share that we still firmly support the All Kids Count Act.
Having better data to understand successes and disparities along lines of race and ethnicity, English language ability, foster care status, military family status, gender, low-income status, and disability means we will all do better for our kids. Specifically, for Asian Minnesotans ensuring their inclusion in equity discussions means having the ability to see and understand more nuanced data; when they are lumped into the aggregate category of Asians, their community’s disparities become hidden. Unfortunately, neither the U.S. nor the Minnesota Department of Education require data collection beyond the aggregate label of “Asian” therefore, data for specific ethnic communities is not available across the state or at the majority of school districts where there are large Asian American populations.
For African Minnesotans, being grouped together in the category of black misses the intersectionality between race and ethnicity. When ethnicity is being considered along with race, it is easier to direct specific resources needed to treat disparities that target ethnic groups within a race. Furthermore, it is essential to consider the black English Learner community of students that are being neglected because of the lack of disaggregated data in the aggregated label of “Black or African-American”. These students have specific needs that their African-American counterparts may not, such as having to learn and speak English along with their native languages. Also, when students who identify as Black/African American are not given a subgroup option within this race question, it makes identification of recent immigrant groups from Somalia, Liberia, Ethiopia and other African countries within this broad racial group more challenging. Consequently,
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proxies such as language or other indicators are used to identify unique cultural groups and immigrant populations.
Minnesotans of Southeast Asian, Hmong, Latino and Somali descent comprise some of the state’s youngest population and are among some of the fastest growing communities in the state and in the country. For example, since 2000, Asian Minnesotans have grown by 76% in Minnesota to a population of 256,000. Furthermore, 60% of Minnesota’s Asian population are Southeast Asian Americans who are refugees or descendants of refugees. This is unlike any other state’s Asian population where Southeast Asians are a much smaller proportion of the population. Southeast Asian students along with other students of color and Indigenous students often face significant educational challenges resulting in low enrollment in rigorous courses and high numbers of students unprepared for college, work and life after graduation. While we’ve been able to collect anecdotal stories and have some information because of existing data, implementing data disaggregation will only help everyone better understand achievement and needs of students in all communities.
We firmly support data disaggregation because it will help us and education leaders better understand who makes up the diverse racial and ethnic groups here in Minnesota, what unique needs exist, and what community assets may be uplifted to solve education challenges. It’s always been about how we support every student to succeed regardless of income, ethnicity, immigration and language, but we can’t do that unless we have better disaggregated data.
Jeffrey Hassan, Executive Director African American Leadership Forum (AALF)
Abdullah Kiatamba, Executive Director African Immigrant Services (AIS)
Linda Her, Director Asian American Organizing Project (AAOP)
Ange Hwang, Executive Director Asian Media Access
Lyda Morgan, Executive Director Minnesota Cambodian Communities Council
Coalition of Asian American Leaders (CAAL) P.O. Box 211211, Saint Paul, MN 55121 | [email protected] | @CAALMN | www.caalmn.org 2
Ekta Prakash, Executive Director CAPI USA
Lee Pao Xiong, Director Center for Hmong Studies, Concordia University St. Paul
Bo Thao-Urabe, Network & Executive Director Coalition of Asian American Leaders (CAAL)
Michelle J. Walker, Executive Director Generation Next
Bao Vang, CEO Hmong American Partnership
Txong Pao Xiong, Executive Director Hmong Cultural Center (HCC)
Eh Tah Khu & Alexis Walstad, Co-Executive Directors Karen Organization of Minnesota (KOM)
Sunny Chanthanouvong, Executive Director Lao Assistance Center of Minnesota (LAC)
José González, Executive Director LatinoLEAD
Chanida Phaengdara-Potter, Director The SEAD Project (Southeast Asian Diaspora)
Coalition of Asian American Leaders (CAAL) P.O. Box 211211, Saint Paul, MN 55121 | [email protected] | @CAALMN | www.caalmn.org 3
Raj Chaudhary, Chief Operating Officer SEWA-AIFW (Asian Indian Family Wellness)
Kelly Drummer, President and CEO Tiwahe Foundation